World Suicide Prevention Day

Tackling stigma saves lives. Suicidal thoughts are far more common than people realise but we just don’t talk about them. Stigma makes it embarrassing or frightening to tell another person, but this is absolutely critical to getting help.

Dr Alys Cole-King, on behalf of Connecting with People says ‘Suicidal thoughts usually start because people feel overwhelmed by their problems or their situation.  This can happen to absolutely anyone.  People can find it hard to see a way out.  It is not that they necessarily want their life to end: it is just that they cannot cope with their emotional or physical pain any more.  We want to tackle stigma so people can feel free to access the support knowing that the person they approach will listen and not judge’.

We would like to sincerely thank all our collaborators and in particular our special guest blogger, Rob Webster, Chief Executive Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust and Dr Mike Durkin Director of Patient Safety NHS England for their support of World Suicide Prevention Day.
 

Produced by Nine Lives Media

 

A Message from Dr Mike Durkin, Director of Patient Safety, NHS England:
"I wholeheartedly support World Suicide Prevention Day and its important goal to raise awareness and reduce the stigma people with mental illnesses can face. People who are physically ill will seek treatment easily and are encouraged and well supported, but when people find themselves suffering from mental health problems, often they feel embarrassed which prevents them from seeking the treatment they need. The Patient Safety team at NHS England understand the barriers and risks created by such stigma and have developed tools to try and address what is an important patient safety issue. I would encourage everyone to get involved on the 10th of September and help spread World Suicide Prevention Day’s vital message."

 

Guest Blog from Rob Webster, Chief Executive, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust

I’m sorry if I made you cry. Crying seems to be one of the frequent responses prompted by my blog from 1 August – Saying Yes to Life, Despite Everything. This blog, about the suicide of my brother, was read by thousands of people. Many of them told me how moved they were. Others offered support. Some brave souls came out with their own stories of how they had been affected.

Read More...

Daniel is 29 years old and works in marketing. He has written his letter to his 17 year old self and hopes that his contribution to the #DearDistressed campaign will help someone of a similar age. Daniel didn't feel that his father was there for him emotionally and although he had a great relationship with his grandad, he feels that his mental health would have benefitted significantly if he’d had a younger male role model to look up to and talk to. Sadly, a good female friend of Daniel’s ended her life when he was 22; she was only 21. Daniel is determined to help anyone who is feeling alone, lost, unloved so that their family and friends avoid what he considers to be one of the most horrible experiences of his life.

 

Hey bud

How's it going? I just wanted to let you know, I know what you're going through. It is shit. And I know that a lot of what I am about to say to you now is likely to go in one ear and out the other. But I really need you to try and listen to me. 

It gets better. Not perfect, nothing is ever perfect, but it gets better. It really does. The things you're saying to yourself now are complete nonsense. And you have no idea the amount of positive impact you will have on people lives in the years to come. 

Keep active, keep playing football, keep boxing, keep meeting up with your friends, there are friends you have now who will be your friends for life. 

Don’t be afraid to speak to those friends about how you’re truly feeling. You know your friends and they won't judge you, they only want the best for you. I know you have this self-belief that you can do everything on your own. And that is amazing and that will be so useful in years to come. But you don't have to do this alone. The weight that will physically fall off your shoulders when you speak to someone about how you're feeling right now will be the biggest relief you have ever felt in your life. And if you need to cry you can, there is no shame in that. 

I know how compassionate and caring you are and again that is one of your best attributes and you will go on to do amazing things with those attributes, but right now, try your best to focus on yourself. Do things to make yourself happy and try not to get too wrapped up in other people’s situations. I know you have the best intentions to want to help people, but people will only change if they want to change, don’t waste your time and energy on the things you can’t control. Instead focus that time and energy on the things you can control. Those are your own thoughts and your own actions. I know at times it might not seem like you can control your own thoughts, but like anything practice makes perfect. I would highly recommend that you start a CBT course as soon as you can. I found CBT incredibly helpful.

Remember I have been where you are. You are not alone. Try and focus your mind on the present. Don't get lost in the past or dwell on things that haven’t even happened yet. Just focus on being right here, right now. That's all that matters. And take it day by day. Because tomorrow the sun will rise and you don't know what the day will bring you.

You are stronger than you know.

From your future self, 12 years on.

Lee is 27 and has worked as a stuttering carpenter for 3½ years and as a furniture maker for 7 years. He lives with his nan, who he is the main carer for.  Lee has suffered with depression and anxiety since he was 14 years old, but didn't receive any professional help until he was 24 as he didn't understand what he was going through to ask for help.

 

Dear Lee,

I know your feeling very scared, alone, anxious and that your a constant disappointment to everyone around you. And it's very draining for you physically and emotionally. You can get quite tensed and moody with loved ones and others at times. Which makes you feel even worse than normal. When your feeling your lowest your start to question whether the world would be a better off without you. And who would miss you. 

Remember there’s always someone to talk to. A loved one, friends or a support campaign like Samaritans or Mind. You might not realise this but your very good at hiding what your going through. So unless you talk about it. Others will not realise how you are feeling.

Your anxiety was triggered by bullies. But your depression is fuelled from negative thoughts from within. I know there overpowering and you feel there no way of escaping these feelings. But with the right help and treatment you'll start to see what you've achieved in life. Rather than always focusing on what you haven't.

But if you ever feel like the world is too much and that the best answer to end all your pain is to take your own life. Start to think how will it affect your family. Your nan will be left without a grandson and a career. Your mum, brother, sister and the rest of the family may not be as physically effected but may be mental effected by the experience. 

You need to be able to open up more. The only way is to be able to talk about how your feeling. This will make you feel stronger and more confident person. That looks and feels so much happier as a person. It'll give you the confidence to try and archive your life long dreams and ambitions. Like working in the professional fireworks industry. 

Your a lot stronger than you think. Other wise you wouldn't have made it this far going through what you have been. 

Stay strong and remember to try and fail doesn't make you a failure.

From someone that knows you well. 

Lee. 

Dear Nadz,

You’ve been here before and didn’t think you could make it, but you obviously did for me to be writing this!

You are so critical of yourself at the best of times, but your depression feeds on this and tells you nothing but lies. You are one of the few who can’t see any goodness at all in you and you are certainly not evil, although your depression is probably telling you the opposite right now.

There is no magic wand and once again it will probably take a long time, but you CAN do this and beat it once again!

Please stick with it and remember that you have made a difference to so many people. It’s just that they may not feel as comfortable as you are in opening up.

Look long and hard at your wrist and who your kids are already growing up to be, because some of them has come from you.

You are not a failure and you should not feel guilty about everything and anything, although it’s not something that you can make yourself believe when you are well! You tried your best and everyone else seems to know that, apart from you.

Things will get better and you will become stronger as a result.

Dear distressed,

I truly understand how suffocating and meaningless it feels to be alive right now. The loneliness and isolation you feel from your friends, family, and all of life must be so painful. I also understand that you are feeling so conflicted right now, and this does not feel good. On one hand you long to be your most authentic self and to speak your truth; you wish people could understand and help you but you are also afraid to let them in. I want you to know that despite all of this, you will be okay. Trust me.

While it is easier to withdraw and shut out the world, I wish you could realize just how resilient and courageous you are. Do you realize that despite all that you have endured, you are still here… alive and breathing? Neither me, nor your body and spirit will ever give up on you. Darling I wish for you to know that you are not alone in your internal struggle. I wish for you to know that you will recover from this depression and this vicious eating disorder. I'm so sorry you are going through this right now. Even if you cannot take this in in this moment, I want you to know that you are worthy and valued. And you know what? Life is not easy. Life is challenging and difficult not because you are doing it wrong, it is simply the nature of our human condition. This dark night of the soul you are experiencing is actually an inevitable abyss you have to go through in order to heal and renew. 

There is a saying, feel it to heal it.  So let your tears flow, don’t hold them back; let them cleanse what needs to be cleansed. Do not be afraid of your emotions, feelings, and thoughts regardless of their content. You will come to understand them with time. The dark thought, the sorrow, the loneliness and the inner critic are simply outcries for love and acceptance. I promise you that you will learn to cope with them instead of being reduced by them. 

And hey, when was the last time you put on a song that makes you come alive? Put it on! Let the music you are inclined toward fill you. And don’t forget to spend some time in nature if it available to you. Take in some fresh air. Seat by the ocean… lean against a tree. Or simply look up into the big blue sky.  I promise you that you will experience the beauty of the world and who you are once again. You will surpass these dark moments as long as you are willing to continue walking the path.

I see you and love you whole-heartedly. I acknowledge all of you. You are not alone and I will always be here to support you. Oh and one last thing, never let anyone tell you that you are overly sensitive. Your sensitivity is a gift. A  gift that will help you develop a strong intuition.

With all my love,

Future me

Dear Sarah

At the time you felt worthless, that you had failed and let people down. In a few months you will understand that this was far from the truth and in a few years you will recognise that this moment was a turning point in your life which led you in a new direction, to new challenges and opportunities, to new friends and ultimately a better and more productive place, all of which you would never have experienced if you’d listened to that negative voice.

You are surrounded by people who listen and who support you no matter what. Talking to them and your GP will help, its amazing the people who care. The ones who don’t and who caused much of the drama you are currently experiencing, they aren’t worth it, they don’t matter. This was not your fault, but its OK to take it that hard, it means you cared. However, you need to care about you now and focus on that.

In the future you will be there for others and your own experience will help them know they are not alone. You will fight the stigma, you may not effect the change you want but you will get people talking. That in itself is a huge achievement.

You won’t always succeed at everything, learning to accept that is the hardest lesson you face, embrace the words below and carry on…

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.” – Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

There’s so much more to come … I want you to be there to see it.

Kevin Braddock has 20 years experience as a writer and editor for GQ, Esquire, The Face and The Guardian. In 2017 he published a memoir “Torchlight: A Publication About Asking For Help” which is accompanied by packs of Practice Cards. Recently his story of breakdown and recovery featured on the cover of the Observer magazine. Find out more at www.torchlightsystem.com

 

 


 

Kev, it’s going to be okay. 

I know that’s a simple thing to say – maybe a dumb one too – but it is. It’s going to be okay. I know you can’t see that, let alone believe or feel it, but it’s going to be ok. There’s going to be more than the big blank nothingness which I can see filling your eyes, and the cruel thoughts looping through your mind, these sharp hateful commands you’re hearing, and what they’re telling you to do. 

But if you get through this day and this night then every day will begin to tell you that there’s more, and that it’s going to be okay. 

I can see you there: under the burning afternoon sun with the shadows of nothingness creeping over you. And I know what you’re feeling because we’re the same person, separated only by time. I’m writing to you from three years into the future you can’t, right now, believe in, or touch, see, feel or know. Your future is my present, so I’m writing this to us, to help you where you are now. 

I can see you there, as I look back.

Let me say some other things you can’t know. You’re about to go on a long walk, a massive shift is coming, and there will be ups and downs, crests and corners, cul-de-sacs and returns, but gradually you’ll learn to walk this way. You’ll go in circles and they’ll slowly increase. People will keep you propped up until you can walk on your own again. 

These people: they’re on the way now, I can hear the chatter and text messages. You did a brave thing, just then, asking for help.

But listen, I’m sorry to say this but there will more tears and the endless invisible pain isn’t going anywhere just yet, yet there is another side to life which will soon show itself to you. You will be shocked and surprised, Kev. Really surprised. One day – in fact on many days and in a million tiny moments – with the hints and sign you’re going to get, there will subtle and sudden changes in your systems of sensing and thinking. 

In your way of life. 

In you, and the meaning you make and the people you love. 

You will not feel like this forever.

But first there’s today and your blank opponent, and it’s time to give in for a while, and stop fighting the shadows. Oh and yes, something else; I almost forgot. Tonight someone will send you a song. You don’t know this person very well, and you’ve never heard this song but it will say something to you, just as it still speaks to me when I hear it. So can you wait just a little longer, Kev?

Ok, they’re here now: it’s your friend, and his friend is coming soon with the car. Give him your phone, wallet and keys, just hand it all over to people strong enough to look after you, collapse into them until we can sort it all out. Let’s not look too far ahead. Just today, and maybe tomorrow.

In the end Kev, I know you can’t know this, believe it or feel it, everything I’ve written here, but I wanted to cast a spell across the years between us, and join you in your pain for a moment. You don’t have to believe any of this, but I’ll say it again anyway: it’s going to be okay.

The song? It’s called “Stay Alive”.

That’s all you have to do today: stay alive.

Clare is 38, a lawyer in a large city firm, who suffered severe postnatal depression following the births of both of her children. She has requested that her letter is published anonymously, due to concerns that knowledge of her experiences of suicidal thoughts may affect her work

 

Dear Distressed Clare
 

Something is broken at the moment. There are errors in your thinking. But it is just a symptom. You are ill. 

But it will pass. It has passed before. If you can just hold on, you WILL get better.

Take a deep breath and think of your boys. Ted is only 1yr old. He needs his mum. Ben is 6, but he needs you too.

Breathe again and think of Dave. You don’t want him to struggle as a single dad. You love him. he will miss you.

Push the thoughts away. You are strong. Be strong. You WILL get better. Just hold on. 


Love Well Clare

 

 

Lisa Rodrigues CBE is a writer and mental health campaigner. You can read about her on her blog www.LisasaysThis.com or via Twitter @LisaSaysThis

 

 

 

 

Dear Distressed Person 

Thank you for opening this. You probably won’t feel up to reading much. So I need to grab your attention.

I want to tell you something. I have been where you are. I have felt that my life wasn’t worth living. Sometimes I knew why; mostly I didn’t. It has happened a number of times over many years. I have contemplated suicide. I even tried to take my life. But I’m very glad to be here because otherwise I couldn’t write to you now.

Making an admission about feeling suicidal isn’t easy. It can be shocking to face, for you and others. But also you don’t want people to overreact. You just want to be able to talk. And yet the chances are, you won’t have spoken to anyone about it. You may feel ashamed, as I once did. And still do, on a bad day.

Distress of this sort is overwhelming. Especially if you keep it bottled up. It blocks out the sun. Yes, it is different for each of us, because we are all different. But what makes us similar is the awfulness of it.  Lying awake for hour after endless hour, whether alone or next to someone you can’t talk to about the darkness of your thoughts. Everything seems pointless. You worry about stuff you used not to worry about. And the big things that were worrying you already are overwhelming. You feel loathsome, undeserving and useless.

So what might have helped me when I was where you are right now? 

  1. It would have helped if I had managed to talk to a loved one or a friend. Eventually I have learned how to do this, although I still find it hard. I have been surprised by the kindness and understanding shown. Suicide is still taboo for some, but less than it was. And talking can really help.
  2. I called Samaritans a few times, from a phone box - there were no mobile phones in those days and I didn’t want to be overheard. They were amazing. They weren’t shocked and they listened really carefully. Nowadays calls to Samaritans are free so you don’t need credit. Ring 116 123 anytime, day or night, and talk to a trained volunteer. 
  3. A hospital nurse once told me that I was a cowardly, selfish waste-of-space who had taken him away from looking after people who were really ill. I believed that nurse. And that was how I saw myself for many years. I wish I had instead remembered what a kind GP had said when I apologised him for bothering him, which was that I was worth the effort. 
  4. I wish could have had a smart phone installed with the #StayAlive app by Grassroots Suicide Prevention for androids or iPhones. As well as useful information, advice and support, it encourages you to store reminders of how you feel on a good day, and keep special photos and music in one place. Now I look at mine most weeks. It makes me feel happy and safe.

Learning to be kind to oneself can be a lifelong project. But if you aren’t kind to yourself, it is much harder to be kind to other people. For that reason, it is a generous and thoughtful thing to do. Rather than a self-centred indulgence, as I once believed.

Thank you for reading this. I hope it helped a bit. And if it didn’t, it doesn’t matter. 

Because know this: you are not alone.

With loving kindness from

Lisa

My name is Steven Gilbert and I’m 32.  I am Birmingham born and bred and a University of Birmingham graduate. 

Mental health difficulties began in my late teens.  In my early 20s I experienced two depressive episodes, accompanied by suicidal behaviour.  I was sectioned due to a manic episode in 2010 and diagnosed with Bi-polar Disorder.  In 2015, I was additionally diagnosed with Complex PTSD, a result of Emotional Abuse throughout childhood that continues today. I have experienced the problems associated with accessing treatment, the variability of care within the system, and the role of the police in a mental health crisis.  My commitment to my on-going recovery has enabled me to draw on my experiences and skills in my role as a Living Experience Consultant working to improve outcomes for people with poor mental health.

 

 

Dear Steve

I know that you are feeling all alone and that you are scared.  You probably haven’t slept properly in weeks and are exhausted.  I know that you believe that the world is better off without you and that dying is the best thing for everyone.  I know that you want out of the crushing pain you feel.  I know that you can’t see any other way.

I also know that you want to live, but that you can’t live with the ways things are.  I know that you have a bright future ahead of you, a life full of love, enjoyment and fulfillment.  

I know that you want someone to ask you “How are you?” and for them to truly mean it.  I know that you want someone to listen to you and take you seriously- this could save your life.  I know that you feel that it is weak to talk about your feelings- talking about them is the strongest thing you can do.  

I know that people telling you “Cheer up mate, things will get better”, whilst well-meaning, does little to help.  I know that being told “What have you got to be depressed about?” feels like a blow to the head. 

I know that there is a reason why you feel the way you do.  I know that the traumatic experiences of your childhood caused real damage to your mental health.  I know have a diagnosable mental health problem that can be treated and managed.  I know that there will be many challenges for you and your mental health, but that things will get easier.  I know that you will get the correct medical care and a team that will help you to understand your thoughts and feelings and live life to the full.

I unfortunately know that this will not be the last time you experience suicidal thoughts, but also know that you will build a network of friends, family and people, you haven’t even met yet, who will be there to support you through your darkest days.

I need you to know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary situation.  I need you to know that the suicidal voice in your head is simply a sign that you are unwell and that you need more support and care in your life.    

Just hold on.  

Fight with everything you have to stay here.  

Help is coming. 

You are a brilliant individual.

You deserve to live, love, and laugh.

From one friend to another.

Pooky is the director of the children, young people and schools programme at the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, a member of Connecting with People Expert Reference Group and a member of The Department for Education Advisory Group to Develop Peer Support. She is a passionate ambassador for mental health who loves to research, write, speak, teach and her enthusiasm is backed up both by a PhD in child and adolescent mental health and her own lived experience of anorexia, self-harm, anxiety and depression.

 

 


To Pooky, 

In this moment of unbearable pain, it feels impossible to take another step – unless it is the one to end it all – but please don’t.  As you stand, contemplating whether to go on or to stop, you are basing your decision on a series of truths that need testing.  You cannot test these truths when you are gone.  Let me help you test them now with the unprompted words of others you will hear in the months following this moment. 

Truth? You believe that you are a bad mother

“You are the best Mummy in the world. I wish every little girl could have a Mummy like you.” One of your daughters tells you this whilst half asleep, climbing into your bed seeking solace from nightmares.  

Truth? You are a bad wife

“I rarely look at couples and think that perhaps they have something as special as I’ve been blessed with, but I look at you and Tom and I see that bond. He’s as lucky to have you as you are to have him.” These were the observations of a very happily married friend who you love dearly.

Truth? You are a bad friend

“You are the best friend I could ever hope for. I love you” 

The words of a beloved friend as she speaks for the first time of her pain.

Truth? You are a bad colleague

“You were incredibly inspirational in the meeting the other day, and really set the right tone and direction for what we need to do.” The reflections of a dauntingly well-qualified colleague after your first time of meeting. 

Before you make an irreversible decision, the truths on which you base it need testing.  

You are a scientist and currently you have not gathered enough evidence to make this decision.  Step away, live another day and begin to allow those who love and respect you to help you test those truths.  

It may take years before you can hear words such as those above and believe them rather than feeling that surely they speak of someone better, more deserving.  I write this a few months on and still you don’t believe them -  but you have hope.  You hope that with hard work, perseverance and by taking things one day at a time, that one day you will believe them. 

And wouldn’t that be a wonderful life - one worth living? 

Walk on… Please. 

Pooky x

Please read and get involved in the twitter feed above. Our key messages are that:

  • Suicidal thoughts are far more common than people realise. Stigma stops us talking about suicide but talking about it helps break down stigma.
  • Stigma means that it can be frightening to admit to yourself that you feel this way and embarrassing to tell another person. Telling someone is the vital first step to getting through it.





In collaboration with the Royal College of Psychiatrists we have developed a range of public education resources which are available here.