By Ruth Fox
Suicide – that word caught your attention, didn’t it? The truth is, suicide catches everyone’s attention. It’s the warning signs leading up to it that go unnoticed.
It is thought that one person dies from suicide every 40 seconds. Men aged between 20 and 49 are more likely to die from suicide than cancer, road accidents or heart disease. Astounding statistics, yet few people talk about them. On a daily basis the press inundate us with the latest health food fads to reduce the likelihood of developing fatal diseases. Yet talking about the state of our mental health seems to be much harder.
It’s easy to put on a mask, to answer, “Yeah, I’m fine“, to plough on with your ridiculously busy life, to overwork, to over-train, to put other people’s problems first, and to try and juggle everything on your own. Believe me, I’ve been there. It seems that in a society dictated by perceived perfection. A hiccup, an issue or some need for time out is seen as inadequate and unworthy.
The truth is, everyone has their own problems and their own battles to fight. Holding it all in is like a coke bottle being shaken and shaken until one day it will inevitably pop. This, in psychological terms, is called an emotional emergency. Different people experience different ways of expressing this build-up of stress and tension. For some it’s anger, others turn to alcohol, drugs, smoking, undereating, overeating, panic attacks, self-harming. The smallest incident can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The last straw
I use my own example here. One Sunday I was struggling and had been for a while; I had a football game, but every time I sat in my car I just broke down. I didn’t feel I could cope with seeing people either, or with putting on a brave face. Later that afternoon, having composed myself, and on my way back from getting coffee, I had nowhere to park. This stressed me out enormously and I panicked, so as I reversed into a tight space, I hit the car behind me. This was the last straw. No damage done, no one was hurt, yet I felt from this tiny incident that life was just too much for me. That night I called an ambulance for myself.
Unfortunately, some see that there is no way out, no light at the end of the tunnel and no point. The pain they are experiencing is too much to handle and the only option left to them is to end their life. The word ‘selfish’ is often associated with committing suicide. But when you are in that dark, dark place, you feel like a complete burden to others, that they would all be better off without you, that you’re making their lives worse by still being there. Your thought processes are distorted and it’s very easy to look at things through the eyes of perspective. But in the depth of that moment, there is only darkness.
Through personal experience I know how exhausting, debilitating and distressing these thoughts are. Fleeting or more permanent, they are horrendous to deal with. You can be driving down the motorway and suddenly think, ‘I’m going to crash my car, it would take all this pain away’. You can be sat in bed and picture yourself jumping in front of a train the next day, overdosing on tablets….whatever it may be. These scenarios can be as vivid as reality, which makes them so hard to suppress.
The thing that stopped me was fear of death. The unknown scared me more than life did. Everybody has protective factors, usually friends or family, literally anything that is a positive in life for you. These need to be grasped onto in moments of difficulty. There is a whole world out there, and a future waiting…
The warning signs
There are warning signs for someone who is suicidal if you look hard enough:
– A complete lack of interest in the things they love
– Withdrawal – this can be physically withdrawing from social situations, not being there mentally despite them being present, or ignoring calls or texts
– Phrases like ‘I don’t see the point’ ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and ‘I give up’ should ring alarm bells
So how do you go about helping someone in this situation? This is purely from personal experience of what people have said to me, giving me that glimmer of hope and more often than not, reassurance. I’ve actually got a book with all the comments friends and family have said to me. Here are just a few.
‘I have ultimate faith in you’ ‘Stay strong and you will win’ ‘There are so many people here for you’ ‘You are gonna get through it’ ‘Head up’ ‘I guarantee that people understand how hard it is’ ‘I believe in you’ ‘Just keep going’ ‘Even though you don’t feel it, you are very strong’ ‘Proud of you’
Ask for help
Ultimately, professional help is out there should people need it; there are counsellors, doctors, psychologists, day units, inpatient units and medications which can help to pull a person back from that dark hole.
So, in conclusion, it takes so much more strength to ask for help than to go it alone. People do care, people are willing to listen and help guide you.