*TRIGGER WARNING – talk of suicide*
This is the third year in a row that I’ve intended to write some words for World Suicide Prevention Day, and was never able to make it until the end of a post. Part of that was due to the nature of my blog, and not wanting to bring “heavy” topics into the mix. That was wrong. Yes, I love to write about fashion and travel, but I strive to be able to use my platform for something that hits harder to home for so many people. I guess that’s another reason why I was never able to write about this, because it hits so hard to home for me, too. I know that sounds like the start of a teen film where there’s a freeze frame and you hear “I guess you wanna know how I ended up this way”, but that’s not what’s happening here. We’re not gonna glamourise suicide in this post. Nor are we going to glamourise any kind of mental illness in this post. It’s not that kind of post. We aaaare however, going to talk about how to cope with feelings that may arise when we’re struggling with our mental health, how to reach out to the people around us who might be struggling also, and the need for awareness, education and intervention to help those who may be having suicidal thoughts.
I understand how difficult it can be to open up about suicidal feelings. I work within mental health, I preach about mental health and I’m pretty much an open book when it comes to telling people that I’ve suffered with depression in the past. However, I still find it difficult to delve into my experience with a mental illness. Partly, because I work within this field and sometimes feel that I should be 100% mentally GREAT at all times to be able to pursue my career (that is also wrong, I am a human). Partly, because of the memory loss that tags along with depression, and the numbing of emotions that make it difficult to recall what was a difficult period and what wasn’t. But also, partly because of the memories that stuck with me the most. The hardest times that I went through when I was suffering with my mental health. The complete lack of emotion for anything and anyone, yet at the same time, the overwhelming emotion towards everything and everyone. The self-destruction. The loss of control. The not-so-helpful coping techniques. My habit to search in places where I knew I couldn’t find happiness, but I tried anyway. The feeling of not even caring if I didn’t wake up the next morning, and how terrifying it was to finally acknowledge that feeling. Not cute, not glamorous, just downright terrifying.
I’m lucky that I was able to get the help that I needed. The help that I deserved, and the help that every other person deserves too. After receiving support, I was able to come to terms with the fact that I never wanted to end my life, I just wanted the pain to stop. Something that I stumbled upon on Twitter today from Matt Haig perfectly summed up the way I was feeling: “I wasn’t made to cope with such pain. And yet I did. And I’m here. Not 100% perfect, but 100% alive. Here. In this impossible future”. I might just get that tattooed across my entire body, because it epitomises my experience with having a mental illness so well. I didn’t feel able to cope with that pain, so I became numb to it, I internalised it, I ignored it and hoped it would go away. It took it’s toll, but I got through that. There are days that I might not feel okay, and that is perfectly fine. There are days that I feel like I can conquer the world, and that’s pretty cool, because 16-year-old me would not have seen that coming. The girl who couldn’t really see a future, or a light at the end of the tunnel, is miles ahead of where she thought she’d be right now. Pursuing a career but still putting her wellbeing first. Okay, I probably haven’t eaten my 5-a-day in like a really long time, my gym membership is a lost cause, and yeah, my roots are showing, but I am aware of my emotions and I’m in control my own life. I’m not perfect, but I’m alive. And I’m so glad that I am. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to experience so many things that I didn’t think I would even see the start of. Oh, and here’s even a picture of me smiling below because I’m genuinely happy!! (A smiling picture of me is rare)
But let’s not get carried away, this post isn’t about me. This post is for the one million adults who report making an attempt to take their life each year. This post is my endeavour to make a contribution to lessen that number, even if it sparks a fuse in one person who reads this to educate themselves or raise awareness, my job here is done.
Every 40 seconds, the world loses a soul to suicide. Samaritans have launched a campaign that I am so onboard with, and hopefully anyone reading this will feel able to partake in this too. They’re encouraging you to take 40 seconds of action. Just 40 seconds. You could use that time to improve awareness of suicide as a global health problem, improve your own knowledge of what can be done to prevent suicide, initiate a conversation with somebody that you care about, or are concerned about, share a message of hope with someone who is struggling, or even reaching out to your local MP to express your concern and see what else can be done to help. That may take more than 40 seconds, but it could make a huge difference.
I understand that people will have different takes on this, but the 3 things that I feel we need more of are: AWARENESS, EDUCATION AND INTERVENTION. So, how can you help?
Awareness – Let’s get the message out. If there are any fellow bloggers out there reading this, we have a platform to use and an audience to listen. Let’s do something about it! Let’s lessen the stigma, start the conversation, normalise reaching out for support. Even if you don’t have a blogging platform, social media is golden. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Youtube. Hell, even Myspace (is that even a thing anymore?). We are part of the digital generation, whether we like it or not, let’s utilise that. Social media can be a place for hate to breed, and often a catalyst for situations such as suicide. Let’s fill it with love.
Education – Educate yourself. We all have a brain, why not load it up with facts and figures that will enable us to help others to acknowledge their feelings, and for us to gain that awareness that others may be feeling that way. Let’s go back to the 40 second task, use 40 seconds to read through these signs that someone may be struggling:
- Feeling restless and agitated
- Feeling tearful
- Not wanting to talk to or be with people – isolation
- Not finding joy in the things that they usually enjoy
- Using maladaptive coping mechanisms to deal with feelings – e.g. drugs
- Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
- Not replying to messages or being distant
- Their work just doesn’t appear to be at the same standard
- New pattern of unexplained lateness or absences
- Recent inability to concentrate on their work or in meetings
- Recent inability to complete any of their work
- Talking about suicide or self-harm
- Preoccupation with death
- No hope for the future
- Self-loathing and self-destruction
Of course, if someone is feeling one or more of these things, that may not mean that they’re struggling or feeling suicidal. Suicidal feelings are complex, and can be triggered by numerous things. Whether that be a huge life-event such as divorce, losing a job or mourning someone, or something smaller such as having a bad day at work or stubbing their toe on a door. These feelings can build up, and be set off by one small thing, or they can come on all at once and out of nowhere. The point I’m trying to make is, that suicidal feelings aren’t always something obvious or visible. There isn’t one sole cause, and it’s not always straight-forward. However, if we can educate ourselves, raise awareness for this issue, and allow the people around us to know that we’re there for them, we can strive to end the stigma around suicidal feelings. That leads me to my final point…
Intervention – Raising awareness is brilliant. Education is amazing. But intervention is the key to suicide prevention. Let’s try something. When I say life threatening illness, what comes to mind? Most likely a physical illness, like a heart defect, or cancer. Am I right? Very little do we associate that phrase with depression, anxiety, anorexia, schizophrenia, bipolar, or any other mental illness that can bring on suicidal feelings. Very little is suicide treated as it should be, a life threatening illness. All in all, there is not enough funding for intervention of suicide. So many times, I’ve heard of people going to the doctors and being told to come back in a few weeks if they’re still feeling that way, or people being sectioned but then receiving zero support afterwards. Could you imagine going to the doctors with a spinal injury and being told to come back in a few weeks? Could you imagine going to A&E with a broken arm and being turned away with no support? A huge problem lies within suicide not being treated the way it is, a global health issue. Suicide is preventable. Recovery from mental illness is possible. Everybody has a right to have good mental health, just the way everyone has a right to have good physical health. So, what can you do to help? Unfortunately, the government is in charge of funding that goes into our mental health services. However, you can still…
- Write a letter to your MP/local authority about the issue
- If you find yourself voting in an election, educate yourself on the parties intentions to fund mental health needs on the NHS
- Donate to a charity each month – even £1 will make a huge difference!
- Fundraise for a charity, or get involved in local events where the proceeds go to charities that help others
- Volunteer at a local charity that supports those with poor mental health
- Volunteer at a national organisation that supports others too
National mental health organisations that you may be able to find volunteering opportunities at include: Papyrus, The Mix, Shout, Beat, Samaritans and Childline.
If you’re located in the North West, there are also numerous local organisations where you can volunteer to help others, such as: The Hive, The Martin Gallier Project, Genie in the Gutter, the Whitechapel Centre, the Open Door Centre, your local Samaritans, Tomorrow’s Women, National Youth Advocacy Service and many more.
How to cope with suicidal feelings – This is not an easy one. Suicidal feelings aren’t black and white. There is no clear cure to a feeling or an urge, but there are techniques out there that you may be able to use to distract yourself from these.
- Join an online group chat or forum – The Mix have group chats on their website that run most days, and they also have 24 hour discussion boards. These are moderated, so you shouldn’t come across anything that you find triggering. You can access those here: https://www.themix.org.uk/get-support/group-chat
- Vent. Let it out. You could access a webchat at The Mix (they’re open until 11pm) or text Shout who are open 24 hours. If you don’t feel like confiding in anyone, get a notebook and get all of your emotions out. Even if words don’t come to you, just scribble on the page. It doesn’t have to make sense, as long as it helps.
- Reach out to a friend – Easier said than done, I know. But, people care. Even if you don’t want to talk about your feelings, just initiate a conversation with someone that you know will distract you.
- Music, Youtube, Podcasts – Sometimes silence can get so loud. Try listening to some uplifting music, watch your favourite youtubers, or listen to an inspirational podcast. Or a podcast that’s full of nonsense. Whatever makes you feel good.
- Get creative – Write a story, write a poem, draw or paint a picture, get an adult colouring in book (I have one full of cats and it’s great). Let the creativity flow, if you find it helps.
- Go on an adventure. Whether that be to a different country, or just on a walk down the road. Get some air and try to relax.
- Create a safety plan with Papyrus. They’re experts and they’ll be able to help you come to terms with your feelings.
- If you feel the urge is too strong to pass, try contacting the organisations below. If you feel unable to do that, call the emergency services and explain your intentions to them.
If you find yourself in suicidal crisis, or you want to help somebody that is, these organisations will be able to help:
Shout – A 24 hour crisis text service where someone will talk through suicidal feelings with you. They can also talk about anything from relationships to anxiety. Text SHOUT to 85258.
Papyrus – Support with suicidal feelings for people aged up to 35-years-old. They can talk it through with you over the phone at 0800 068 41 41, or over email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Papyrus can create a safety plan with you, so that if your thoughts do intensify, that you can ground yourself. You can access their resources here: https://papyrus-uk.org/help-advice-resources/ and create a safety plan yourself, or over the phone with them.
Maytree – Maytree are a charity that are “open to suicidal feelings” and are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can explore their site here: https://www.maytree.org.uk or call them on 020 7263 7070. If you’re over the age of 18, they can help! If you’re under the age of 18, you can contact Papyrus, or…
Childline – If you’re under 18, Childline can talk through your feelings with you. You can access their website here: https://www.childline.org.uk, and if you’d rather call them then you can do that on 0800 1111.
Calm – This one’s for the men. Calm stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably. In 2016, two thirds of suicides were from men. Calm can help talk through any feelings around suicide over web chat here: https://www.thecalmzone.net and over the phone at: 0800 58 58 58. They can also talk through anxiety, depression, relationships, you name it. They’re there to listen.
Samaritans – Samaritans are a listening service, and they can talk through ANY issue at all with you. They do specialise in talking about suicidal feelings, and they’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also find your local branch at their website: https://www.samaritans.org