Sunday, 10 September 2017

“You look so happy in all of your pictures!”

Which of these pictures makes you think I need help? 

Most people will say the ones where I am crying. You can see my hurt and pain quite clearly. The twisted agony is quite obvious. I’m suicidal in both of these pictures right? Yes. What about the other two pictures? I’m smiling. I look nice. Hair and makeup done. I’m not suicidal in either of these pictures right? Wrong! I am suicidal in all of those pictures. In fact, in most of my pictures I’m feeling suicidal or thinking about suicide. 

I have something called suicidal ideation. I have written about this previously. It is essentially a state of mind where the though of ending my own life is never too far away. That’s just how my brain works. The last psychiatrist I saw told me I was a “high suicide risk”. This did not come as a shock to me. I am well aware of that fact. More recently, thoughts of suicide have been far more intrusive owing to a set of circumstances I am not yet ready to talk about. 

I have attempted suicide. From memory, I have attempted at least 4 times. Each time was different insofar as there were different reasons for my attempt. 

Suicide is not so much about wanting to die, more about not wanting to live. Not wanting to be suffering an indescribable pain. Not wanting to be a burden to those who love you most. 

According to the World Health Organisation, 800,000 people die by suicide every year. Men are more likely to complete suicide and women are more likely to attempt suicide. There are also racial disparities in suicide. American Indians, Alaskan Natives and white men are the highest risk. Asian and Pacific Islanders have the lowest suicide rates for men and African Americans have the lowest rates for women. 

There are often no warning signs that a person is going to complete suicide. As a person who has been suicidal for more of my life than not, I can guarantee that there are not many people who actually know or realise that behind my smile there are continuous thoughts of suicide. 

Suicide is a global issue. We have a responsibility to all our fellow humans to know and understand that suicide does not discriminate. Some of the happiest people you see may be battling dark demons under the surface. 

This World Suicide Prevention Day I want people to know that you can help prevent suicide. If someone wants to talk to you about feeling suicidal, let them talk. I know it is scary, but just listening can make all the difference. I have spoken to friends myself who have talked about ending their own lives and even though I fight the same demons on a daily basis, I still feel out of my depth when trying to help someone else. 

According to statistics, between 50% and 75% of people who attempt suicide talk about their suicidal thoughts beforehand. That still leaves between 25% and 50% of people who show no “warning” signs at all.  

The biggest risk factor for completing suicide is having made a previous attempt. Around 90% of people who complete suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition. Substance abuse and a family history of suicide also increases the risk. Those who have experienced childhood trauma or display impulsive aggression are also more likely to complete suicide.

You can help prevent suicide by engaging in conversation with a person who you may feel is at risk. There are many online resources available with advice on how to broach the conversation. 

Just know that if, after trying to help a person, they still complete suicide, it is not your fault. As noted above, between 25% and 50% of individuals who complete suicide show no warning signs. 

Knowing that someone cares is the biggest help for me. Having someone just drop me a message asking how I am can keep my demons at bay.

Suicide should not be a taboo subject. Even if we are not suicidal ourselves, we should still openly talk about it to help reduce the stigma. We should also avoid creating our own conclusions as to why a person completed suicide. 

When discussing suicide with a person who may be at risk, it is also important to consider how you are feeling.  Are you ready to talk to someone who may well tell you they want to take their own life? Are you prepared? Do you have resources available to support yourself and the individual at risk? Is the timing right? 

You can find a number of blogs that I have written in relation to suicide:

How to save a life - The aftermath of reaching out to a person on the edge. 
World Suicide Prevention Day 2016 - Last year's writeup 
MENtal Health - A blog focusing on male suicide victims
Depression Does Not Discriminate - A blog following the suicide of Robin Williams
Lost in the System - A blog following the death of Kevin Boyle 
Unbearable Pain- A blog following the death of Gary Speed

Resources available:

AFSP - American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
CALM The campaign against living miserably

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