Suicide isn’t something that regularly makes it into everyday conversation. It’s that big taboo subject that everyone tends to shy away from, even the word is loaded with all sorts of meanings and negative images. But the fact is that it’s something that needs to be spoken about. And it needs to be spoken about now. Suicide is the leading cause of death of men and women aged 20 to 34, overcoming heart disease, road accidents and cancer (Office for National Statistics, 2014). This statistic in itself should convince you that suicide awareness needs to be a public priority, up there with dangerous driving awareness and cancer research. In the run up to Christmas, there is a lot of happiness being shared, but there’s also a lot of sadness and despair that goes on behind closed doors, especially at a time of year when happiness is so prominent. This post is about being aware of this and knowing what to do when things take a turn for the worse.
After the recent events at the University of Bristol and the general increase in suicide rates in the UK, it seems now is the time to get over the taboo of talking about suicide and tackle the issue head on. A lot of people simply can’t understand how someone can get so low that they want out of this life, which is completely natural considering it goes against all of our human instincts.
However, even though I’ve never come close to committing suicide, I have more than a bit of an insight into how a mental illness can make you so desperate that all you want to do is let go. During both of my episodes of depression, before I was diagnosed, I had no idea what was going on. I had the most overwhelming feeling of darkness and lack of hope that I really felt like there was no way forward. At my lowest points, I won’t deny that suicide crossed my mind, but there was some form of logic still intact that made me able to pull myself out of that hole. Thinking about what I had to lose and the effect suicide would have on my loved ones snapped me out of what was only a very brief passing thought seriously quickly. But even just having a brief thought about the prospect has had a profound effect on me.
However, the desperation is far deeper for others, and there’s no snapping out of it for them. I was pretty close to a guy who committed suicide when we were 18 and none of his friends or family saw it coming. We were left reeling from the loss, as well as the confusion that no one had spotted it. This was a massive lesson to me that we need to listen to each other more and notice when things aren’t quite right. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, an acquaintance or even a complete stranger in which you get a gut feeling that something’s wrong, please, please act on that feeling. Saving yourself from potential embarrassment or getting it wrong is far less important than saving a life.
We also need to teach each other that it’s okay to talk about our feelings, it’s okay to cry and it’s okay not to be okay. In a world where we are constantly striving for success and happiness, it’s often difficult to admit when we’re struggling. Men find this particularly difficult, which is why the statistics are increasing, especially for older men with families who feel the weight of financial responsibility and keeping stability. This is important to bear in mind. Be aware of the men (and of course the women) in your lives and, again, act upon that gut feeling if you’re not sure everything’s okay.
I once read some advice from a woman in her 30s, who spoke of being a depressed, suicidal 17 year old who had come close to the edge many times. She was writing the story sat on her sofa, from which she could hear her husband reading their 4 year old son a bedtime story; a life she says her 17 year old self couldn’t even have dreamt of. Life is worth it and things will always get better with time and help. Suicide is never the answer. Choose life, you won’t regret it.
If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, please, please reach out to someone. There will always be someone there to help. There is a link to the Samaritans, whose phone lines are open 24/7 and some other suicide charities at the end of this entry, which will also help those who are worried about someone who may be at risk.
Although it is part of the human experience to feel unhappy, alone or anxious at times, it is right to seek help when you’re not coping. Do not hesitate – the University runs a comprehensive provision which provides support to students all over the University – both on and off campus.
In the first instance contact the Student Life Centre to make an appointment to see a Student Life Advisor – they can provide support and reassurance and give guidance about other sources of help.
Your doctor can talk to you about how you feel, prescribe you medication or refer you on to another service or specialist.
The University has a free and confidential counselling service based on campus just behind the Health Centre. There are seven therapists and an additional 25 post-qualified and trainee counsellors.
Long term mental health conditions
If you have a diagnosed long term mental health condition then you should make an appointment with a member if the Student Support Unit. More information about what service this unit provides can be found at the bottom of this page.
For more detailed information on the points above and how to seek help off-campus, the Health and Wellbeing pagesprovides detailed information about how and where you can get help.
Papyrus, prevention of young suicide: https://www.papyrus-uk.org/#
Grassroots Suicide Prevention: http://www.prevent-suicide.org.uk/
Suicide Prevention app: http://www.suicidepreventionapp.com/?gclid=CIj2j5mD1NACFdEK0wodEkoOFA