Friday, 1 June 2018

The Awkward Truth About Suicide



*Trigger Warning: Mentions of Suicide

This morning, I woke up to the news that fashion designer Kate Spade had committed suicide.

I read the news as I scrolled through social media and I don't know why, but the words hit me like a tonne of bricks.

I'm not a huge fashion lover and I'm certainly not usually one for expensive labels, but I love the Kate Spade brand. I've bought her agendas and notebooks for a few years now, and I always loved the brands positivity.

The further I read into her death, the sadder I felt.

A woman only in her early 50s, a mother to a young girl, a successful business woman. But also a woman struggling with marital problems and years of anxiety and depression. Committed suicide, alone, in her beautiful New York City apartment.

On the outside, her life would look to be the envy of many. But on the inside, it was a very different story.

I hate that phrase. "Committed" suicide. The very words themselves imply a level of blame, don't you think? Committed.  Like a crime.

In fact, the act of suicide was a crime until 1961 when it was finally decriminalized so that failed suicide attempters could no longer be prosecuted upon their survival.

Just think about that for a minute. Just 57 years ago, suicide survivors could be prosecuted for being at such a desperately low point in life that they felt their only option was to die by their own hand to escape it.  What a cold, brutal world we lived in then.

But it's not like that anymore...is it?

Yet still, the phrase remains the same. And when someone takes their own life, we're so quick as a society to jump on to social media and share the same old memes "It's good to talk about #MentalHealth"...."We need to end the stigma. #MentalHealthMatters"..."If you're feeling suicidal, talk to someone...don't suffer in silence".

And the intentions are good, of course. But when you stop and think about it, by stating that suicidal people should simply have "opened up" and "Talked about it" or "asked for help"...are we not laying the blame at their feet? Are we not suggesting that they simply didn't do enough themselves to try and survive? Is that not victim blaming?

The fact is, even when you DO open up...talk about it...reach out and ask for help...it often doesn't make a great deal of difference. Because the help just isn't always there.

I've spoken numerous times before on my blog about experiencing suicidal thoughts. I'm not the type to shy away from emotive or difficult topics, I talk about mental health often and in detail. I have no fear of stigma.

I am what I am, and if people don't like it then that is their issue and not mine.

But even I know that speaking about my thoughts and experiences makes people uncomfortable. And that after a while, people just stop wanting to hear it. And so, inevitably, you stop wanting to share it.

Suicidal people likely already feel like a huge burden, so to end up feeling that endlessly talking about their problems is bringing other people down or falling on deaf ears only adds to that feeling.

I have blog posts on the subject of being suicidal that have thousands of views but that barely anybody I know has ever actually mentioned to me.

I've opened up to family members about my suicidal feelings only to be brushed off and told not to be "silly".

I've had my partner remove knives from my hand in my lowest moments and then never mention it ever again...as though it simply never happened.

And more recently, I've discussed in detail with my therapist how I sat last year and made plans on when to end my life. Chosen a month to do it with the intention of seeing my children's birthdays one last time, and felt that immediate sense of relief that I had a plan in place. Not because I was a bad mother or heartless or selfish, but because I GENUINELY believed that their lives would be better with me gone.

Then I missed a therapy session, because I felt too depressed to get dressed and leave the house that day, and received a standard NHS text message to tell me that my sessions were now cancelled.

Just like that. No follow up email, no "are you doing ok though? How's the suicidalness?!"...Nothing. Just discharged. Forgotten about. Lost in the system.

And it's not their fault. Because they're struggling to keep up with the demand for their services. If someone misses a session, then they're discharged so that the therapist can become available for the next person on the endlessly long waiting list.

Because they can't help everyone. Because they don't have the funds to help everyone. Because under our current Tory government, cuts have been made to mental health services...services which desperately needed more investment.

Sometimes, it feels as though you're talking about it until you just can't talk anymore...and it still doesn't matter. Because the help just doesn't come.

I'm so tired of seeing people inadvertently place blame at the feet of those who fall victim to suicide.

Instead of throwing around hashtags imploring sufferers to talk, use your hashtags to demand better care for those who reach out and are in need of help. Because a lot of the time, we ARE talking. More than ever before. But talking is just no good if you're not being heard by the right people.

Even when loved ones are listening and checking in constantly, and doing every single thing they can to try and help - they're not professionals, they're not trained, and they can't really help.

You would never expect a family member to be able to heal a persons broken leg, or cure their cancer - so why would you expect that simply opening up to a family member or friend would stop someone suffering such severe mental health problems that they're on the verge of suicide?

It's not enough. MORE needs to be done to provide access to mental health services for those in need, more needs to be done so that when people do reach out for help - it's actually given, and given adequately.

There are so many of us who are not suffering in silence, we're actually screaming for help....but we are still left suffering, regardless.


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