World Suicide Prevention Day

And so I kept living

I wrote this post to mark World Suicide Prevention Day 2016, and it perhaps unsurprisingly, discusses suicide. Please scroll on past if that might put you in a difficult position. If you need help right now – pick up the phone, send an email (feel free to use my contact me form – I’m here, I won’t judge) knock on a door, head to A&E (ER). Take care of yourself xoxox

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Four years ago, I wrote this post to mark World Suicide Prevention Day 2012. So many things have changed in the years that have intervened – for me, for the people I love, and in the world – but sadly, one thing hasn’t changed much at all: the figures on suicide around the world.

According to the World Health Organisation an estimated 800,000 people worldwide lose their lives to suicide every year. It’s difficult for me to imagine the human picture behind a figure like that so I tried to break it down – it averages at around 90 people every hour; or three people every two minutes. In the time it hasn’t taken me to write this post nearly 100 people have taken their own lives. For every person who dies by suicide, another three people make an attempt on their life. So, in the time it has taken me to write this post 400 people have found themselves willing themselves out of the world. Sometimes, there are no words for how awful the human picture actually is.

Here in the UK, the picture is no less discouraging. In 2014 (the most recent year for which figures from the Samaritans are available) some 6581 people lost their lives to suicide in the UK and ROI – the highest number of men since 2005 and of women since 2011. Whichever way you look at it, the number of people who die at their own hand in the UK has increased – I don’t know whether that makes me more sad or angry, but I don’t suppose it really matters right now. I am a suicide survivor, and as hard as it is to say THAT is what matters to me right now.

As a rule, we still find it difficult to talk about suicide and that’s a huge problem because one of the best means of defence we have is talking about it.

Here’s what I know:

  • Talking about suicidal feelings gives you the space to examine them, outside of your own head.
  • Talking about suicidal feelings helps to remind you that you are never alone with them.
  • Talking about suicidal feelings gives you a distraction from the actions that are gathering ever more momentum in your mind.
  • Talking about suicidal feelings helps us to remember – above all else – that it’s okay to talk about suicide.

So – at the risk of repeating myself: I am a suicide survivor, and I am not ashamed. There have been times in my life that I wished not to have life anymore – it wasn’t ever that I wanted to be dead, more that I didn’t want to be alive anymore. The two things have always been, and remain, very different to my mind. The feelings that I had at those times don’t make a lot of sense to me right now but I remember the desperation, and hopelessness, fear and pain. I remember those things in my bones and in my heart – I carry them with me and use them to remind me that whatever happens, and however I feel: my life is worth having. And so I choose to live. I choose it every single god damn day.

Suicide is complex – nobody knows that better than I. But suicide is also, almost always, preventable. There is work to be done and we need to look to each other – to our family and friends, to our politicians, our media, our healthcare professionals – to make it happen. Most importantly of all we need to keep on finding the courage to talk about it, until all the shame is banished and until every single person who thinks they are lost is  in no doubt that we are ALL here for them, and that we are here to get them through.

I end, as I did four years ago, with some words that mean the world to me – words that have lifted my heart and carried it for me, words that have comforted me, words that have saved my life:

“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”

Lady Chatterley’s Lover. DH Lawrence

Keep your lights burning brightly, my friends. And remember, it’s good to talk.

Love you all lots, like a million and one jelly tots – WeeGee xoxoxo

wsp

Burning my very special little candle, in support and solidarity and hope

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I don’t often reblog, but this post really touched me and I wanted to share it. Please do read it.

As you know, I myself am prone to suicidal thoughts, and whilst I can’t help feeling that way it is really important to get this kind of perspective. I will definitely be adding it to my ‘list of things to read’ when I’m standing on the edge.

WeeGee xx

We’ve got to live

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and I, like many other bloggers, have decided to mark the event with a post about suicide and suicidal thoughts. It’s an unusual one for me because the subject is particularly serious and not one that deserves my usual flippant and slightly sardonic treatment…..

A short time ago, I learned of the death of a colleague. It wasn’t a close colleague, more someone I chatted with in the coffee queue or the lift. His death came as quite a surprise to be honest. He was 48 years old and was the picture of health. The announcement concerning his death stated that he had ‘died suddenly following an illness’. It was sad news and I knew he would be missed around the campus because he was one of those cheery, chatty people who everyone knew to talk to. I thought no more about it, until I read an obituary in one of the educational supplements – the illness that killed him was depression and he had taken his own life following a lifelong battle with it…..

Strictly speaking the announcement on our staff intranet was accurate – he had indeed died suddenly following an illness – but those words said nothing of his experience, or the tragedy of his death – they almost made his death sound peaceful and inevitable, when in truth it was neither of those things. Those words prove that suicide is still loaded with stigma and that we try to protect ourselves from it by refusing to acknowledge it even when it is staring us in the face. We simply don’t talk about suicide despite the fact that one in five of us will have suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives. That’s a lot of people thinking about something that we can’t bring ourselves to talk about.

Worldwide suicide statistics are shocking – 3000 people take their own lives every single day and for every person who takes their life, another twenty people will attempt to. Unless my maths is wrong (which, of course it could be) two people take their own lives and 41 attempt to every single minute of every single day. In the time it took me to write about numbers two people will have died at their own hands. Let that sink in for a minute ……….. By the time you’ve done that two more lives will have been lost.

Of course, not all suicides can be prevented – that’s a sad fact we have to accept. That said, the vast majority of suicides can be prevented – and that’s a sad fact we cannot accept. Poor mental health is a significant risk factor when it comes to suicidal thoughts and behaviour and as far as suicide prevention goes, that’s something that we have to take very seriously indeed. Poor mental health is entirely treatable and should never, ever, come to be seen as a terminal illness.

So how do we prevent vulnerable people from taking their own lives? By ensuring that we have adequate suicide prevention strategies in place – it seems so simple. We must continue to work to reduce access to the means of suicide, we must continue to target resources at high risk groups, and we must continue to insist that our woefully inadequate mental health services are improved and are as accessible as possible at the point of need. Suicide prevention strategies need to be ongoing, long term and regularly reviewed. Crucially, suicide prevention strategies need to be adequately resourced which means we have to make sure that suicide prevention and mental health awareness are issues that are kept at the top of government health agendas.

Finally – we have to talk about suicide: openly, sensibly and without judgement. Suicide and suicide attempts are not acts of cowardice, or selfishness but they are frightening, difficult to understand and full of stigma. In some countries suicide and suicide attempts remain criminal offences; even in countries like the UK, where suicide hasn’t been illegal since the early 1960s it is still routine for us to say that someone ‘committed’ suicide in the same way that we say someone committed a heinous crime. We have to move our opinions on, we have to get people talking about suicide if for no other reason than if somebody is talking about suicide, they are not actually carrying out a suicidal act.

For my own part, I have made three serious attempts to take my life. Each time the circumstances were slightly different but each attempt had something in common. They all came at times when I had isolated myself and withdrawn from support, interventions, friendships and family relationships. I’d been keeping secrets and I had nobody to talk to. I didn’t have to explain the logic that had led me to my decision, I didn’t have to think about the consequences of my death, and I could convince myself that taking my life would be quiet and peaceful rather than painful and chaotic. In my experience talking through these very practical issues is a particularly good start in saving a life.

A great many people reading this post will experience mental health difficulties and will know, from bitter experience, how bleak and distressing suicidal thoughts are. Some of you will have survived suicide attempts. Some of you will be thinking about suicide at the moment, and others will come to think about it in the future but none of us should become another suicide statistic because we have something very powerful. We have words and we can keep on using them to talk about suicide – to each other, to our friends and family, to the medical professionals charged with our care and to our politicians. We can use words to keep us safe, to save our lives, and to save the lives of others.

I thought I would end with some words that once played a significant part in saving my life. They’re taken from the opening chapter of D.H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s lover and they mean a great deal to me – I try to keep them swimming around my head at all times, but especially in times of distress:

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.

Lots of love from WeeGee xxx

PS – I’m sorry I didn’t include a link – the official site for the day appears to be down. Hopefully that indicates high volumes of traffic and is therefore a good thing.