The Uncomfortable Truth- Suicide Prevention
Mental health is still an extremely uncomfortable subject to talk about and life would be so much easier for myself and fellow sufferers, if this wasn’t the case.
They say that one in four of us will have a mental health illness at some stage of our lives. The reality is it’s almost certainly much higher than this but sadly the majority of people don’t seek help. Recently I was made aware of an alarming statistic that over 70% of people who commit suicide, haven’t attempted to get any medical support. Often the families are left totally shocked and bewildered by the tragic event, saying that they didn’t see it coming.
It fills me with sadness when I think of those people trapped in their own heads having to deal with unimaginable mental anguish and eventually losing the battle. Feeling alone in every sense of the word, right up until the end.
At the moment mental health topics are on the television every day, be it in expert phone ins or actors portraying depression on dramas and soaps. People are being made aware of all the helpful organisations that exist and are being encouraged to seek help from their GP’s for the first port of call. So why when the subject is at it’s most prevalent, do the majority of people, even at their darkest moments, still refuse to get help? I find the whole thing perplexing to say the least and an area that desperately needs challenging.
I grew up in a world where I was lead to believe that only weak-minded people could get a mental health illness and only a negative pessimistic person would end up getting depressed. Depression not even being recognised as a proper illness but something that people should just be able to snap out of! I wonder how many still share that view today. I now realise this is complete rubbish. Mental health is not a weakness and as for depression, I for one have always been a positive upbeat person who sees the bright side of life, but I still got it! I could give you several examples of strong level headed people who end up completely pole axed and unable to function properly, all because of this illness. Telling people that I suffer from depression is a great way to kill a conversation! Either that or they say they understand as they get a bit down sometimes too. Clearly these people don’t get it and it infuriates me beyond belief. Having depression is not the same as feeling a bit down, just as having a mental health illness does not make you cuckoo or a fruitcake, or any other derogatory terms I’ve heard used. It does not mean that you’re stupid in anyway either. Look at Stephen Fry, one of the most intelligent people on the planet, but his illness has been well documented over the years.
The truth is it doesn’t matter who you are, rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful. Sure- a traumatic event might act as a trigger but often this isn’t the case and you might just be one of the unfortunate ones who happens to get it. Like any other debilitating illness it affects people at random. No different to cancer or heart disease, mental health does not hand pick you. It has no favourites. But the facts are there, clear for everyone to see; suicide is the leading cause of death in young people aged 20-34. Just how many of these deaths could have been prevented?
I accept that society is becoming more open to talking about mental health, but there’s still a terrible stigma surrounding it, which prevents individuals from seeking help when they need it the most. I was nearly one of those people. Terrified by the prospect of asking for help, I didn’t think I was worthy of it and worst of all I couldn’t accept that I was in any way mentally ill!
The majority of people I have spoken to are of the opinion that suicide is a selfish act. This has been the same for as long as I can remember and growing up I shared the same view.
It doesn’t help if you’ve been directly affected by it or know of a family who has. You’ve been witness to the horror and devastation left behind. It’s perfectly normal at this point to mainly sympathise with the family and not give a second thought to the victim and the horrible place they must have found themselves in. What you witness is a whole world of pain and suffering and you can’t help but feel an element of resentment towards the person who caused it. It’s a delicate subject, I know, but in my opinion to consider suicide as a selfish act is a huge misconception. Suicide is not a selfish act, suicide is an act of shear desperation by someone whose experiencing unimaginable amounts of inward torment. Someone who has lost all sense of hope and literally feel they have no other option.
In my case I was convinced that my family and friends would be much better off without me. I’d become a burden to them all, I’d become a burden on society. I longed for it all to be over, for the pain to finally stop. People’s lives would be so much easier without me dragging them down.
I knew there would likely be sadness right after my death but this didn’t compare to the sadness and disruption I was going to cause by staying alive. I didn’t see myself ever recovering, you see, I was only going to get worse and cause further distress to my family.
I guessed that my closest friends would try to take on some of the responsibility and I hated the idea of them feeling in any way to blame. I therefore wrote letters to each of them in a vain attempt to explain my actions and try to reassure them that they had been amazing friends, explaining that this was my decision alone and nothing they could have said or done would have changed the outcome. I couldn’t possibly predict their emotions but I’d much rather they felt anger towards me, as apposed to guilt. These letters were extremely difficult to write. Would a selfish person have gone to all this trouble?
My next big concern was financial. I didn’t want to leave my family with any debts. In an ideal world I would have sold my house and paid off the excess mortgage. Previously it had tenants in but at this stage the house was vacant and had been up for sale for some time. Unfortunately I’d had no luck, the economic climate being in a poor state. However after doing extensive research I realised that the debt of the house would die with me and my mother would not be accountable for any of it. This came as a huge relief.
I made sure I had enough money in the bank to pay for the funeral and put all my account details in a file in my top drawer. Also in this file I put any other important information my family would need, such as my birth certificate, national insurance number, mortgage details and all the numbers they’d need to contact after my death. I was trying my best to cover all angles and make the process as simple as possible for them. Does this sound like the actions of a selfish man?
I didn’t intend to tell anyone my plan to end my life but as the pressure valve increased I desperately needed some kind of release.
Jack Daniels became my only friend
I chose to open up to my counsellor and in doing so I immediately felt a huge sense of relief. I didn’t hold back or spare any detail, I literally told her everything.
It wasn’t until a much later date when I was in a better headspace and had no intention of going through with the plan. Only then did I confide in my family and closest friends. My friends all responded in a similar manner, in complete shock. They said things like “ How could you have done that to us? How could you have possibly done that to your family?” I couldn’t blame them for asking these questions and don’t get me wrong they have been amazing support to me ever since. But again, their initial reaction indicated that they believe suicide to be a selfish act.
It’s hardly surprising that people are so reluctant to talk about their mental health or admit to having suicidal thoughts. Yes there’s many organisations out there offering great support but we can’t expect the alarming statistics to go down any, unless people’s attitudes drastically change.
In my opinion people need educating from a young age. Physical health is well covered at school so why not put as much emphasis on mental health. Everyone is likely to be effected by it at some stage of their lives, either themselves or someone they’re close to. So why not get them talking about the subject as early as possible.
It needs to be accepted as a serious illness and I still have my doubts that people do. For those of you who claim that you do accept it in this way, ask yourself this – have you ever sent a ‘Get well’ or ‘Thinking about you’ card to someone with a long term illness? The majority of us would say that we have. But when was the last time you sent one to someone with a mental health illness?