National Suicide Prevention Week 2013
This week has been a very significant week in the calendar of health events. World Suicide Prevention Day on the 10th September tied in with this whole week of Suicide Prevention which is now coming to an end for another year.
I have seen a great response on social media, blogs, newspapers, forums and live chats.
Working in mental health there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t have some involvement in suicide awareness, depression, supportive measures, individual difficulties and problems and of course the positives in seeing people get better. Nothing can really bring home the true cost of poor mental health other than direct support work with individuals, carers and families. The stories, the exhaustion, the frustration with service, and the positives all have a huge impact on the way I go about my work.
There used to be a time when I would count the days, months and then years since I had been admitted to hospital for having tried to take my own life. I’m glad to say I stopped counting a while ago now when in 1998 I vowed it would be my last and it was. This coincided with a few significant key moments. Being a missing person, being in complete and utter despair, guilt at what I was doing to those I’d left behind, guilt that I was costing enormous amounts of money on police searches, being locked up in a police cell and lastly sitting defeated in a psychiatric hospital yet AGAIN. It wouldn’t be my last hospital admission but that wasn’t too far behind.
Many times during my period of poor wellbeing which went on for 18 years I really didn’t know what direction I was going in. I knew so many of my problems about the way I thought and behaved went back to childhood. How are we, as we get in to adulthood, meant to make sense of all the negative and traumatic events that happen to us? These events happened during times when we fail to fully realise or understand the impact this is going to have on us later on.
For me, this ties in very well with Suicide Prevention Week. The people we need to be targeting and talking to about suicide, desperation, despair, isolation and loneliness are youngsters. Why?
Young people learn too many negative emotions, behaviours and stigma in relation to sharing how they feel. One negative reaction, comment or sign towards those feeling sad and you can lose someone for a very long time. They may never ever in the future be able to reach out, trust you and say ” I’m not OK, I need help”. This is the kind of damage that can last a lifetime and we wonder why we have such a hard time reducing the suicide fatalities. If that’s not enough we don’t keep records and stats on how many people attempt to take their own life. It doesn’t matter whether someone really meant it or not. After all, a percentage of those who make attempts do in fact go on to die by suicide. It’s the very fact that they felt so low and so desperate to even think of it as a possible solution.
Attempts damage lives too. They cause huge emotional turmoil for people who’ve attempted, their families, friends, work prospects, education, on-going well-being and can scar people psychologically for many years to come.
For me, I’d like to see far more work done with young people. Practical workshops, drama, art and music are all ways that can be used to engage young people in what mental well-being actually means, trust, compassion, communication and most of all getting to know themselves and feel comfortable with sadness and loss and at what point to seek further help.
And lastly, let’s be realistic, we will never not have people take their own lives, but what we can do is help some of those make changes to lead better, happier and more content lives where they don’t feel the suicide needs to be an option.