Posted in Practical issues

We’ve got to live

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and I, like many other bloggers, have decided to mark the event with a post about suicide and suicidal thoughts. It’s an unusual one for me because the subject is particularly serious and not one that deserves my usual flippant and slightly sardonic treatment…..

A short time ago, I learned of the death of a colleague. It wasn’t a close colleague, more someone I chatted with in the coffee queue or the lift. His death came as quite a surprise to be honest. He was 48 years old and was the picture of health. The announcement concerning his death stated that he had ‘died suddenly following an illness’. It was sad news and I knew he would be missed around the campus because he was one of those cheery, chatty people who everyone knew to talk to. I thought no more about it, until I read an obituary in one of the educational supplements – the illness that killed him was depression and he had taken his own life following a lifelong battle with it…..

Strictly speaking the announcement on our staff intranet was accurate – he had indeed died suddenly following an illness – but those words said nothing of his experience, or the tragedy of his death – they almost made his death sound peaceful and inevitable, when in truth it was neither of those things. Those words prove that suicide is still loaded with stigma and that we try to protect ourselves from it by refusing to acknowledge it even when it is staring us in the face. We simply don’t talk about suicide despite the fact that one in five of us will have suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives. That’s a lot of people thinking about something that we can’t bring ourselves to talk about.

Worldwide suicide statistics are shocking – 3000 people take their own lives every single day and for every person who takes their life, another twenty people will attempt to. Unless my maths is wrong (which, of course it could be) two people take their own lives and 41 attempt to every single minute of every single day. In the time it took me to write about numbers two people will have died at their own hands. Let that sink in for a minute ……….. By the time you’ve done that two more lives will have been lost.

Of course, not all suicides can be prevented – that’s a sad fact we have to accept. That said, the vast majority of suicides can be prevented – and that’s a sad fact we cannot accept. Poor mental health is a significant risk factor when it comes to suicidal thoughts and behaviour and as far as suicide prevention goes, that’s something that we have to take very seriously indeed. Poor mental health is entirely treatable and should never, ever, come to be seen as a terminal illness.

So how do we prevent vulnerable people from taking their own lives? By ensuring that we have adequate suicide prevention strategies in place – it seems so simple. We must continue to work to reduce access to the means of suicide, we must continue to target resources at high risk groups, and we must continue to insist that our woefully inadequate mental health services are improved and are as accessible as possible at the point of need. Suicide prevention strategies need to be ongoing, long term and regularly reviewed. Crucially, suicide prevention strategies need to be adequately resourced which means we have to make sure that suicide prevention and mental health awareness are issues that are kept at the top of government health agendas.

Finally – we have to talk about suicide: openly, sensibly and without judgement. Suicide and suicide attempts are not acts of cowardice, or selfishness but they are frightening, difficult to understand and full of stigma. In some countries suicide and suicide attempts remain criminal offences; even in countries like the UK, where suicide hasn’t been illegal since the early 1960s it is still routine for us to say that someone ‘committed’ suicide in the same way that we say someone committed a heinous crime. We have to move our opinions on, we have to get people talking about suicide if for no other reason than if somebody is talking about suicide, they are not actually carrying out a suicidal act.

For my own part, I have made three serious attempts to take my life. Each time the circumstances were slightly different but each attempt had something in common. They all came at times when I had isolated myself and withdrawn from support, interventions, friendships and family relationships. I’d been keeping secrets and I had nobody to talk to. I didn’t have to explain the logic that had led me to my decision, I didn’t have to think about the consequences of my death, and I could convince myself that taking my life would be quiet and peaceful rather than painful and chaotic. In my experience talking through these very practical issues is a particularly good start in saving a life.

A great many people reading this post will experience mental health difficulties and will know, from bitter experience, how bleak and distressing suicidal thoughts are. Some of you will have survived suicide attempts. Some of you will be thinking about suicide at the moment, and others will come to think about it in the future but none of us should become another suicide statistic because we have something very powerful. We have words and we can keep on using them to talk about suicide – to each other, to our friends and family, to the medical professionals charged with our care and to our politicians. We can use words to keep us safe, to save our lives, and to save the lives of others.

I thought I would end with some words that once played a significant part in saving my life. They’re taken from the opening chapter of D.H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s lover and they mean a great deal to me – I try to keep them swimming around my head at all times, but especially in times of distress:

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.

Lots of love from WeeGee xxx

PS – I’m sorry I didn’t include a link – the official site for the day appears to be down. Hopefully that indicates high volumes of traffic and is therefore a good thing.

Posted in Practical issues

A quick one!

Okay, so help! Which one of you lovely lot posted a link to a video by ‘Jimmy somebody’ who was rather beautiful and very talented in a musical way? Please remind me because my reader is broken and I need to know his surname 🙂

Posted in Practical issues

Joining the back of the queue

I had a bit of a setback earlier this week. Turns out, the waiting list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in my borough is considerable and I’m at the back of the queue!

I’m feeling a little cut adrift, to be honest. The psych appointments are all well and good, and I fully appreciate that they are necessary but…. point number one: they make me feel like a bit of a mentalist (I am a bit of a mentalist so I’m allowed to say that) and point number two: I worry that the focus on the symptoms and the feelings somehow reinforces the symptoms and the feelings, if you see what I mean. I’ve followed CBT courses twice before and found the approach incredibly helpful. I like to understand and I like to have a plan and using CBT techniques provides both. Over the last month or so I’ve tried to put as much of what I have learned in the past into action, but I do feel that both a refresher course and some regular contact with a specialist is something that would be helpful for me at the moment. Nevertheless, for now I need to hang on in there by myself for a little while longer. There are plenty of excellent self help CBT tools on the web, so I guess I’ll be turning to them* for the time being.

I don’t suppose for one minute that I’m the first person to have found the energy and courage to admit they need a little help only to be told that whilst help is available it will be a long time coming. At the same time, it’s certainly no secret that mental health services are under resourced and over-subscribed so NHS waiting lists in excess of 12 weeks are hardly surprising. The question is, what can I do about this state of affairs? The depressed me says nothing – people get what they’re given, and have to suck it up and hunker down; the ‘other’ me says not a lot, but maybe a little!

Mind are a fantastic charity who do a lot of brilliant advocacy work and play a huge role in keeping the issues associated with mental ill health on all kinds of important agendas. They also work closely with those affected by mental health difficulties providing advice, services and local support networks. Mind do great things and have an important role to play both in providing much needed resources and in ensuring the needs of those experiencing mental health difficulties are at the forefront of the minds of our policy makers. I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days now and I’ve decided that doing something to support Mind could be just the little thing the other me could do!

And so I’ve found this on the Mind website and I think I might give it a go. Even if I only manage to raise a couple of quid, I’ll have done something positive, right? I’m also fairly confident that the exercise, and the outdoors will do wonders for my well being and hopefully the challenge will give me an external focus whilst I wait for my name to reach the top of the CBT queue. Finally, maybe I’ll be able to do a tiny little bit to raise the profile of Mind and the awareness of mental health difficulties amongst my friends and family as well.

I’m not entirely sure that I know what I’m letting myself in for – I do a fair bit of walking and I’m not altogether averse to running now and again but I’ve no idea how many steps I actually take in an average day. 10,000 sounds like quite a lot, doesn’t it?! Anyway, I’ll be signing up this weekend and I’ll keep you posted.

Of course if anyone reading this is looking for something to do over the summer, they’d be more than welcome to join me – little things added together make big things after all!

* Mood Juice is a particularly good one.

Posted in Practical issues

Counting the pennies – an afterthought

In the off chance that my good friend (who knows who they are) reads this post, I should express some heartfelt and public gratitude for the awesome practical support, particularly on the money side of things. If my good friend doesn’t read this post, readers will at least know that I have a good friend who has been awesome, particularly on the money side of things!