There have been some high-profile suicides lately and even Coronation Street have run a slightly clumsy story line on it, so I thought now would be a good time to talk about looking out for each other. I will not go into the details, but there are statistics out there on the amount of recorded suicides in the UK. It is incredibly sad to know how many people are out there, that are so desperate, they decide to bring their lives to a close.
I am in no means an expert; my experience comes from losing family friends to suicide, dealing with my own mental health issues, as well as my helpline experience. But it is all too easy to brush it under the carpet and say, “Well I don’t know anything about it, so what can I do to help, surely you need to be a professional to help?” Though the professionals are the best people to help, access to them is limited and can often be out of the reach of people in need, so it is down to us as family, friends, strangers, members of the human race, to reach out and be there.
It is often thought that a person in the depths of depression will seek help, how often do we hear the comment that a suicide attempt was a cry for help? Actually, when we are that low and deeply into our depression, conscious and logical thought processes go out of the window. It is sometimes only when looking back that hindsight that gives us the clarity to recognise what happened. But some people don’t get the opportunity for hindsight.
People with depression are amongst us all, living every day lives, getting on with things, seeming happy. Many people with depression will do an amazing job of hiding it, putting on a brave face, even appearing like they don’t have a care in the world. We all see the happy Facebook posts and know that they are not a true representation of the person’s life, well the same goes for that smile on their face. Not everyone with depression will be suicidal, but it is likely that someone with suicidal thoughts will be suffering from a mental health condition, such as depression and anxiety.
One thing that everyone can do to help is talk to people, really talk and show a real interest. We all ask people how they are, but do we wait for the answer, or listen to the answer?
If you are a relative of someone with depression then you might find they don’t talk to you. It is not about lack of trust, it is about not wanting to bring other people down, not wanting them to be worried or scared, or maybe not knowing what to say. Sometimes the words do not come, or they are held inside, for fear of not being able to stop it all flooding out.
The selfishness of leaving behind people who care – it is incredibly hard to explain how a person can leave behind people they love in such a terrible way. Do they really care and love their friends and relatives? The answer is a resounding yes! They will feel that they have so little to give and are so useless, that the people will be better off without them. I know this sounds ridiculous when you think of losing anyone that you care about, but that is what thought processes do to you when you feel that suicide is the only way out. The demons tell you that your existence is pointless, that you are damaging other people by just being around.
I can still recall the last conversation that I had with a work colleague before he killed himself, it will haunt me forever. I wish that I had done more, picked up on the signs and offered a helping hand or a listening ear. I would be hugely over estimating my part in his life to think that I could have stopped it, but maybe if I had just taken a little more time to listen, then things would have worked out differently. I’ve taken every opportunity ever since to listen and be there when I can.
What can we all do to help? Simple things, there is no need to over complicate this, we are not therapists or professionals, if you are, then you already know what you can do:
- Smile, make eye contact, nod, say Hello – anything that makes an impression on someone.
- When we ask how someone is, take time to listen.
- Ask questions and wait for the answers. If someone is not ready to talk, then just be company, there is no need to force conversation, companionship in silence is just as beneficial.
- This might sound a strange suggestion; talk about yourself; involve others in your life – it is great to feel that someone wants to share their time and their life, it makes us feel good to interact.
- Look for signs – look when they think you are not looking, check that the smile doesn’t slip, look in their eyes; sadness hides in the eyes.
- If someone is angry or stressed, don’t get angry back, think of the reasons why, try to find out what is troubling them, diffuse the situation. Anger is a good way of shutting people out but try to get through the barriers.
- Look for behaviour that is out of character, it may be something really small, but if you see it then make sure you check in on them more often.
- We lead busy lives, that is why this needs to be a group effort. It is too easy to find our cliques and stick with them; try to reach out to the people outside your group, you might find they have an interesting story to tell.
- Be brave; it is easy to run when you find the going getting tough with a friend or relative, feel that your own problems are already enough to cope with, but be brave and take on both, don’t abandon someone because you are struggling, maybe you can struggle together.
Here are a few helplines and contact details for people in need, they will give support to friends and relatives too.
The Silver Line – for older people
Call 0800 4 70 80 90
Check out MIND too, they have some great information on their website
And for those left behind, this is a useful website: