Emad Naqvi was an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He was due to graduate on May 25th, 2018 and his family was scheduled to leave for Boston in the early morning of May 19th, 2018.
Trigger Warning: mention of suicide, depression, & mental health.
However, a few hours before leaving for the airport, his father received a call from the Boston Police informing him that Emad had died of suicide, leaving only a short note and a video message for his family.
The Naqvi’s arrived in Boston on May 20th and went straight to the police station the next morning. They watched the video clips saved on Emad’s phone that totaled to almost 2 hours. The same day, his body was released & shifted to a funeral home. After five days, Emad Naqvi was finally laid to rest in Karachi on the 27th of May 2018, almost two months short of his 25th birthday.
*The following is a third-person narrative from a conversation FUCHSIA had with Mr. Azfar Naqvi (Emad’s father and Chairman of Coach Emad Foundation) & Mrs. Atia Naqvi (Emad’s mother & Director of Coach Emad Foundation).
Who Are The Naqvis?
The Naqvis are a family of five:
Mr. Azfar Naqvi comes from a humble background. Due to his family’s economic hardships, he was born in a charity hospital in Lyari. He completed his undergraduate in Economics from the University of Karachi and then went on to Stern School of Business at NYU. In New York, he worked in a real estate construction and management company for six years and completed his MBA in Corporate Finance from Pace University. In Pakistan, he has worked for numerous multinationals and banks as a Chief Financial Officer over the years. He is currently employed by the House of Habib as Group Director- Finance and Corporate Affairs.
Mrs. Atia Naqvi attended St. Joseph’s School & College from where she did her under-graduation. She worked in various capacities, including a home mortgage officer in New York City and later as a school coordinator in one of the girls’ public school. After being a mother to three children, she decided to study further and acquired a diploma in psychotherapy from CPPD, London and started her practice. Later, she went to Bahria University in Karachi for her Masters in Clinical Psychology. She has been practicing for over twelve years now and is regarded as a very well reputed senior psychologist in Pakistan.
The Naqvi Children
Emad Naqvi, their oldest son, was born on July 31st, 1993 in New York City. He did his O Levels from KGS and went to Lyceum for his A-Levels. He was an avid footballer and played at Karachi United Football Club since he was six. Manchester United was his favorite team. Moreover, he loved volunteering at SIUT in Karachi and volunteered for over 4000 hours – he was highly regarded by Dr. Rizvi and his team. Emad went to UMass Boston for his undergraduate in Physics but later switched to Sports Management and worked for Super Soccer Stars as the senior coach and Premier League Administrator. He was working towards becoming a fully qualified FIFA coach and was admired by the children he trained. Emad chose to end his life last year in May.
The Naqvi’s second child, Shehrbano was born on July 28th, 1996 in Karachi. She has done her A-Levels from KGS. She is interested in writing and went to John Cabot University in Rome, Italy and graduated from there in May 2019 with Honors. Shehrbano wants to build her professional career as a writer and a teacher. She is very sensitive to social issues – especially education, women’s rights & helping the destitute.
Their youngest child, Ahmed, was born on January 13th, 2004. He’s currently studying at KGS. Being the baby of the family, he is adored by all. Similar to Emad, he’s also very passionate about football. Liverpool is his favorite football team. He is currently interested in becoming a lawyer.
Remembering Emad Naqvi
Growing up, Emad Naqvi was a sensitive child and always tried to do the right thing. He wanted recognition and appreciation for his work and used to get disheartened when he didn’t get it.
He was always a well-mannered student and maintained an A-grade throughout his school career. However, it was at Lyceum that Emad changed for the better. There, he focused more on developing as a person. Thus, he made a lot of friends. When he left for university, over 100 of them came to the airport at 4 am to say goodbye.
Emad Naqvi was confident, witty and had a great sense of humor. On one of his visits to NYC, he walked into a bar that was having an open mic night. To no one’s surprise, he successfully regaled the NYC audience with his comedic genius for 30 minutes straight.
The Reality Behind Emad’s Suicide
Signs of someone considering to end their life can be a change in temperament, routine, sleep, eating cycles and general low mood or depression.
However, in the case of Emad Naqvi, there was none of that. If anything, he became extremely responsible, loving and approachable. Before he committed suicide, he had a long phone chat with his parents and younger brother. He talked about meeting them and discussed plans. Thus, as his parents later realized, predictors for a functioning depression or suicidal ideation are very different from common knowledge.
Emad’s tragic choice was so sudden and unexpected, that his parents initially believed that there was foul play involved. He was so grounded and emotionally calm that no one could accept the harsh reality. In his last video message, he stated that he was choosing to take his life at the train station because he didn’t want the first responders to harass his housemates or his landlord. He also said that he had made sure he had enough money in his bank account to cover his rent till the end of his lease term. These are signs of an extremely empathetic and responsible young man. If there were prior signs that Emad Naqvi was troubled, his family surely missed them.
Living In A Society That Values Achievements Over Happiness
Emad’s parents believe we live in a world and society which is very performance-oriented and extremely competitive. High functioning, sensitive people like their son, Emad, internalize a serious sense of imposter syndrome, which if it goes undetected can be very destructive. They as parents could only have done anything if he had chosen to talk about his internal sense of inadequacy.
They believe that people like their son have a very conflicted sense of self, and unless and until it can be integrated, there will continue to be cases like Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade. Both these celebrities took their own lives within a week of Emad’s passing.
In light of Emad’s last video message, his parents have been able to glean that his sense of being a failure stems from his middle school years. He talks about being an overweight child, not a star at anything he was doing and generally having a deep sense of mediocrity.
The family members have regular sessions with their therapists to deal with their loss. Dialogue and purpose have been a coping strategy for the Naqvi’s. They speak about it candidly and continue to love and honor Emad and his memory. The Naqvi’s have been blessed with outpouring love and support. Thus, they would like to help those struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one. Coach Emad Foundation & Coach Emad Football Academy run effectively through the joint efforts of Emad’s parents and siblings. One of the ways they’re helping the community is through their efforts promoting football and destigmatizing mental health at the “Coach Emad Foundation” in Karachi.
Mental Health & Cyber Bullying
*This is what Emad Naqvi’s parents have to say regarding mental health and cyberbullying.
We live in a society where mothers proudly post their children’s achievements online. So even though, we may not have been privy to what my children may have experienced on their group chats, these trends can provide an insight into the subliminal cyberbullying that can go on in the safest of settings.
Social media like any modern-day advancement has its pros and cons. Anything used in excess will always prove to be harmful. The excessive use and lure of social media have impacted the physical activities, proximal social interactions, a filtered and glorified false image of their peers and the society in general. All of these factors contribute to heightened pressures, especially on vulnerable young people. What they don’t realize is that social media is only broadcasting a glorified image of people and successfully hides the real dark sides of its users.
Embracing Your Imperfections
In the present day world, our young people are under a lot of stresses and if they turn to their parents, we must address their concerns or issues with a calm and compassionate approach. Judgments and societal pressures can cause havoc with young people. If a student is unable to cope with studying or even being away from home, it is very important to call them home, give them the confidence that they as people are much more important and their whole life is ahead of them to fulfill any goals. It’s time to raise our children by focusing on their strengths.
It is extremely important to inculcate a sense of working with imperfections. A false sense of achievement and even the acquisition of material goods can not guarantee happiness or contentment. We, as parents, must acknowledge our failures and shortcomings without shame and now strive to work towards achieving the inner harmony along with the material goals. Modern societies are introducing the concept of Mindfulness in their curriculum to now teach the integration of inner and outer selves of the new generations.
Moving Forward After Emad’s Demise
It is time to acknowledge the epidemic of mental health and Suicide. We have openly spoken about our son and his choice to end his own life. In a country like Pakistan, it is not easy to do so. Atia is working with a group of mothers whose children have passed on due to suicide however, none of these parents have acknowledged suicide as the cause of their children’s death.
It is time to talk about suicide with the deep gut-wrenching grief that accompanies it, and not shame – so that we can collect accurate data, garner government funding and work towards finding a cure for this illness, which is currently the biggest cause of death in young people in Pakistan.
Support Group For Grieving Mothers
Last year, Atia formed a support group of mothers who had lost their young children. Except for one mother, all of their children had died of suicide. Atia arranges the meeting at home for 3 hours. She is the coordinator of the meeting who provides structure to them based on her professional experience and knowledge.
The main idea behind these groups is to remove the stigma attached to mental health and suicide. It is time to start a conversation in a safe environment if we hope to address this new age epidemic.
Eradicating The Stigma
We’re are also making efforts on mental health awareness. We have been on Pakistani TV channels, where we openly talked about mental health, especially suicide.
Although, it is very painful for us to be on such forums, we are very out-spoken and try to send a strong message that mental health & suicide are not taboo topics anymore. It is very important to talk about them and be there for those suffering from any mental disorder without being judgmental.