There is still so much stigma around suicide, which can make it difficult to talk about for those affected. One of our ambassadors, Gordon Allan, shares his story, and calls for all of us to be more open to talking about the subject of suicide.
Over four years ago, on Boxing Day 2015 my wife Sally took her own life. She died because she had a mental illness. Every day since, I wish she had reached out and spoken to someone. Why didn’t she speak to a doctor, talk to a friend; or what hurts the most ask for my help.
As someone, told me at the time “you can be surrounded by love but the mind can be a lonely place at times”. I often reflect on those wise words. I think all of us have been in that place, if only for a few hours. A time when we struggled with our thoughts and feelings and convinced ourselves that nobody cared or understood us. Trapped In silence, day after day, it must have taken great strength for Sally to mask her inner turmoil. In the end she just ran out of energy to keep going.
Why did Sally stay silent? I will never know for sure, but I believe she feared the stigma of admitting she was struggling with her mental health. As a loving, caring grandmother, mother and wife Sally believed it was her role to look after the family. Admitting she couldn’t cope she feared being judged and rejected as a failure. She feared being worthless.
It is best explained by someone who wrote to me at the time. The person, had nearly taken their own life 10 years earlier, having been in "the dark void of depression" this is what they wrote:
"I knew in that very confused mental state, that my family would be so much better off without me. Feelings of absolutely zero self-esteem and depression do that to a person.”
Soon after I received that letter, I knew I had to campaign to end the stigma that surrounds suicide. I want people to understand that suicide, isn’t a single brief moment in time, but a painful journey. A journey, that with the right help, support and interventions can be stopped and reversed.
The 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Study found that a fifth of adults aged over 16 in England have thought of taking their own life at some point in their lives and that almost 7% have made an attempt. Why do we feel so uncomfortable talking about suicide when it is affecting one in five of us? That has to change, encouraging people to seek help and talk about their suicidal thoughts whilst educating people on how to support those that do.
I am therefore proud to be a member of the recently formed North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network, a partnership of public, private and charitable organisations and individuals, collaborating with different agencies and communities to help and support all suicide prevention activity across the region. The Network which includes the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust it is linking up best practice across the region. It wants to end the postcode lottery and bring the best quality care and support wherever you live. It wants to end the silence that prevents people getting the help they deserve. Please visit www.stopsuicidenenc.org to learn more.
For example, the Network now has a Suicide Prevention Co-ordinator working within the police who alerts services and gets support to those who need it the most whenever someone attempts to take their own life. That early intervention can save lives and bring support to those bereaved by suicide.
The network also promotes the free Zero Suicide Alliance online training. So, if you want to support this week’s Suicide Prevention Day, please visit their website at www.zerosuicidealliance.com . There are some excellent, short online training modules. The ten or twenty minutes you take to visit the site could one day save the life of someone you care about.
Having the confidence to talk about suicidal thoughts does save lives. Suicide is a journey that can be stopped, if we all take the time to help each other. I am sure Sally would agree.