I never write about mental health or suicide on their designated ‘world prevention’ days or ‘awareness month’.
People kill themselves 365 days of the year, and it’s about time that people start to realise that everyday is a prevention day.
365 days is a long time, and gives everyone plenty of opportunity to care, talk, or – if neither of these happen – give up.
Suicide Prevention Day is too late for over 3000 people in the U.K. this year. Every 90 minutes someone is gone.
And so many more needed something to ‘prevent’ them doing the same, rather than having to depend on their own strength.
If there’s any hope to prevent suicide, both professionals and society need to step up.
This isn’t just a problem with the health system and how dramatically different treatment is for mental illnesses as opposed to physical illnesses; waiting lists to get the help you need, or not being able to access the right resources. It isn’t just about getting those suffering to seek help:
It’s a problem with society and its ‘hush hush’ mentality.
This year, I’ve felt harder for suicide prevention, because only recently I have fallen into that dark place and been so set on the idea of going through with it myself.
And I don’t mean just in general, or in an attention seeking way, either.
Anyone who feels hard done by by the health system has had those ‘I might as well give up’ moments where they believe the only thing that’s going to get anyone to take them seriously is if they severely hurt themselves, or attempt the unthinkable.
But wanting to end everything – for me, at least – felt very different.
I understand that this sort of subject is a trigger for some people, and it’s actually a trigger for myself too, which is why – on one of the other 364 potential suicide prevention days – I want to talk about these things to normalise them; so one day help us all feel comfortable about talking through dark feelings that are often spoken of in retrospect – when we are looking at things from the brighter side – rather than in that present, life defining moment.
The difficulty with talking about suicide at the time isn’t necessarily just because someone might feel embarrassed or burdensome, it’s also because of the comical nature of human kind: We all jokingly exaggerate our feelings, which creates a situation a bit like the boy who cried wolf – but on a society scale.
We’ve all at one point joked around saying ‘I could’ve died’, or heard someone joke about hating their life, so for those who feel seriously about taking their own life, who’s left to take them seriously?
I was 18 when suicidal thoughts became a daily occurrence for me. The feeling lasted and intensified over a matter of months, during and after my first term at University. After quitting, things felt considerably worse for a long time, as failure started to creep into every other thought I had.
My friends had all gone to find their own new lives, my relationship ended, and I’d quit what had always been my future. The world fell down when I least expected it, and it took a long time to realise that there were alternative options and that my life wasn’t actually over.
Ever since, I’ve been okay. I’ve worked hard really to keep on top of it all.
I can honestly say that the whole University experience and aftermath has substantially scarred me in ways – which is why I spend so much of my time now retelling my experiences and giving advice so that others don’t reach that point. And so in a sense, it’s helped me to help others.
But the feeling returned quite unexpectedly this July. And this time round felt worse. This time I was supposed to be able to stay in control, and I had all the tools in place to prevent my thoughts getting so dark. Suddenly, instead of being the one people relied on, I needed to rely on someone else.
And the trigger was so simple: My driving instructor told me three days before my test to reschedule or cancel it, and the world fell very dark.
It wasn’t so much that the test was cancelled, it was the significance and the importance of driving that I’ve always put on myself.
I started learning to drive when I was 17. Was rushed into my test before I was ready, twice, and failed. Without much surprise to anyone. After Uni, I was desperate to have something that I hadn’t failed at; something to show for the year that I hadn’t been at Uni.
I failed my third test.
I totally gave up on it. Now, not only do my friends have their degrees, but some can also drive. It feels like everyone has accomplished more than me, and have just left me behind to constantly remember my failure. The cancellation just felt like yet another failure.
Passing my driving test is like the end of an era I want to forget, but I can’t seem to do it.
Next, my friends drifted away and began ignoring me as they continued with their lives and I stood still. Family members wouldn’t talk or make the effort. I was having nasty arguments. My work was failing. My blog was failing. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror because I felt so ugly.
I was more disappointed in myself and all my failure than I ever had been before.
I tried everything I had always been told to: I opened up, I tried to focus, I took time for myself. I even resorted to using methods I’d learnt in CBT in which you find the evidence to prove your worst thoughts wrong.
But everything added up:
‘My friends don’t care’ – everyone ignored my messages.
‘My family forgets me’ – someone was ignoring me and made no effort
‘I can’t achieve anything’ – my fourth driving test was cancelled because I wasn’t ready.
‘I can’t talk to anyone’ – I had been told I was making people feel negative.
‘Everything is falling apart and it’s all my fault’ – I was told it was.
‘I don’t feel loved’ – I’m difficult to love.
‘Professionals don’t even have the answers’ – Even my psychiatrist told me I was lonely and having a shit time and that I was not in a good situation.
I turned to my parents and headed to home comforts. I couldn’t find a reason to hang on. I begged my mum to take me to hospital just so they could do something.
Luckily, my parents are fabulous, and the hospital wasn’t necessary. Despite my best friend declining my offer to come round for the evening – which only made me feel more alone – I calmed down.
My mum spent the night contacting private counsellors and I was booked in for the next day. My stepdad drove me back home to pick up my prescription, have a meeting at work and back for the appointment.
I felt raw and numb and scared for the weeks before and after.
July in many ways was worse than the first time. Because everything matched up. I seemed to be entirely alone, and I didn’t really know where to turn. I didn’t have anything to help me fight the thoughts off, because they were so near to reality. It felt horrible to say how I actually felt aloud, but if I’ve learnt anything from my own advice, it’s to tell someone you trust the truth. And I’m lucky enough to have extremely good parents to turn to.
The biggest question I think a lot of people have is, if something did happen to me right then and there, how long would it have taken for other people to find out?
Those who didn’t have their parents there; who would find them?
All the people who had classed themselves as friends but were never there when things got bad; when would they find out?
Those who only waited for you to start the conversation, rather than calling you up for a chat; would they finally after months check to see if you were okay?
The ones who told us to stop making them sad or were always too busy to reply?
And would anyone of them care?
Suicide prevention and mental health awareness isn’t always about getting people to talk anymore, a lot of us are at that point: It’s getting people to listen.
I did everything in my power to fight off the feeling. I wasn’t the first to give up on me this time, I was one of the last. I don’t feel like I can do more than I did to prevent feeling like that again, but I do believe that there are people who could’ve done a lot more.
And that’s where the issue lies.
Suicide prevention isn’t about a day of the year where we all talk about it and appreciate other people’s posts: It isn’t about forcing people to open up and seek help.
It’s about asking ourselves are we there enough for our loved ones?
Have we ignored someone’s texts because we ‘can’t be bothered with that right now?’
How many times have we cancelled plans with someone last minute?
When was the last time we asked someone how they were? And actually listened to the answer?
Do we know someone who is suffering silently?
How many lives could any of us have saved?
I was told this blog was too forthcoming. And that it was upfront, and that I spoke about myself too much. And that’s exactly the problem.
We shouldn’t be criticising people for saying ‘too much’ or trying to make it about them. My blog is mine. And it’s a place to share my story so that I feel like I’ve told someone, when it’s too hard to tell those around me.
It’s a place where I can use my experiences to make people feel like they’re not alone, and to raise people’s attentions to the real problems.
Talking shouldn’t have a designated time on it, or be limited to how much we share. Because the bits we’re told to hide are the parts that need sharing the most. Every person sharing their story is another person that’s looking for change and help for those still suffering.
I can imagine that a lot of people haven’t enjoyed this post, but I hope it resonates with some people. So that together, we can make sure nobody has to feel like they’re alone in all of this – because that’s all we can do to prevent it.