#DearDistressed 

 

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day on 10th September and the theme for 2016 is ‘Connect, Communicate, Care’ - three words at the heart of suicide prevention and the focus of Connecting with People’s ‘Dear Distressed’ project.

‘Dear Distressed’ invites bloggers with personal experiences of deep distress, of thinking that life isn’t worth living and suicidal thoughts, but now in an emotionally-safer place, to write and publish a letter to themselves that would have helped in their darkest moments. Sharing experiences is an incredibly powerful way to reach and help others, providing those struggling with some much needed hope that it IS possible to recover, with the right support. We’d like to thank everyone who has helped launch #DearDistressed with their own personal letters, which can be found below.

Interested in Contributing?
We know that your insight comes at a great cost and we’re sorry that you’ve been in a dark place. Your experience has real potential to help send a clear message to those currently in distress that suicidal thoughts are a sign to change something in your life, not to end your life, and that it IS possible to recover, with the right help”. A contribution to the ‘Dear Distressed’ project may very well be a life-saving act.

We suggest that letters are no longer than 500 words, but please don’t worry if you want to make it shorter – this is great too. Connecting with People are incredibly grateful for your time, energy and honesty, and confident that readers experiencing distress will be too. Let us know when you’ve posted - the more letters we can share, the more opportunities to help. Links can be sent to info@connectingwithpeople.org

IMPORTANT PLEASE READ:
To ensure safety and minimise any possible ‘triggering’ of vulnerable readers, we are requesting that everyone who wishes to be involved with the ‘Dear Distressed’ campaign follows the best practice, media guidelines. These can be found in the following links: 

http://www.samaritans.org/media-centre/media-guidelines-reporting-suicide

http://www.mindframe-media.info/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/8264/Guide-for-speaking-publicly-about-suicide.pdf
 

 

 

We are extremely grateful to all our contributors who have taken the time to write such personal, powerful and heartfelt letters.

If you feel you need support, please call Samaritans on 116 123 (free-to-call number open 24/7)
If you are a young person and need to talk to someone now, please ring Childline on 0800 1111 to speak to a counsellor. Calls are free and confidential.

If you are not ready to talk to anyone yet, please see Staying safe http://www.connectingwithpeople.org/StayingSafe

  • Jonny Benjamin

    Jonny Benjamin is an award-winning mental health campaigner, film producer, public speaker, writer and vlogger.

    At the age of 20 he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar, and later began making films on YouTube about the condition that have been watched by hundreds of thousands of people.

    Jonny now speaks publicly about living with mental illness and has written articles and given various interviews on TV, Radio and in print around the world to help educate and break stigma. He has also produced and presented documentaries on BBC Three and Channel 4 on the subjects of mental health and suicide.

    His 2014 social media campaign with Rethink Mental Illness to #findMike, the man who talked him out of jumping off a bridge when he was suicidal, when viral and led to Jonny becoming a prominent spokesperson on the subject of suicide.

    He is currently writing the first of 2 books on mental health due to be published by Pan Macmillan at the start of 2018, as well as training for the 2017 London Marathon with Neil Laybourn, the man who stopped Jonny on the bridge, to raise money for Heads Together, a coalition of major mental health charities.

     

    Dear Jonny,

    I don’t really know where to start but I’m going to begin by saying:

    It’s OK.

    It is absolutely OK to feel the way you do. It is human. You feel like you’re the only person in the world going through this but believe me there are many. Millions of them in fact.  

    I know it doesn’t make it any easier of course but I want you to know you are truly not alone. 

    More than that I need you to know this:

    It Gets Brighter.

    You can and will overcome this despair. You’re so much stronger than you realise. 

    Right now, you feel like you’re past the point of no return. You think that there’s no reason to see each day through. You believe the best and only resolution for yourself and those around you is for you to end your life.

    I understand. I do. It’s been years of torment inside your mind. You’ve had enough now.

    But what if you knew that one day quite soon the battle would be over. What if I told you that in time you would feel very, very different. 

    I know what I’m about to say is going to seem impossible to you but if you take just one thing from this letter Jonny, please let it be this:

    You will feel happiness again

    It’s a promise, Jonny. That’s how sure I am of it.

    Can you imagine it? You smiling, laughing and feeling carefree like you used to. 

    If you hang on, you’ll get there.

    The pain will ease. One day you won’t feel any pain at all. 

    One day you will wake up and actually feel glad to be alive.

    I know this is hard to hear because it all seems so unattainable at the moment.

     

    Can you close your eyes and picture something for me? 

     

    I want you to see yourself standing up in a crowded room full of people and talking about yourself. You will tell them all about the experiences you’ve had. The suffering and the struggling. And then you will tell them that you overcame it. That you got better.

    This is your life Jonny. The life that awaits you.

    Not only can you recover, but you can use what you endured to help other people.

    I know you don’t want anyone to go through what you have. Especially not in silence.

    So you’ll speak up, eventually, and tell people what it’s like. To help them understand and to make them feel less alone.

    And when you speak you won’t feel ashamed. The weight of embarrassment which you carry now will no longer exist. And you will then see that there was nothing to have ever felt shame for.

    All those years of depression. The delusions. The suicidal thoughts. The voice you hear. 

    You will no longer have to hide it.

    And all of the fear, the blame and the guilt will be gone. 

    You will feel free to be who you really are.

    This means that one day you will tell your family and friends you are gay. And on that day your world won’t come crashing down before you, but instead you will suddenly see it grow and bloom. 

    The world, at last, will be your oyster. 

    I know this is a lot to take in isn’t it. 

    The thing is, you wont do it alone. I know you don’t want to let anyone in at present. I understand you don’t feel worthy of any help, support, or love. But you are loved. Unconditionally. By all your family and friends. And, perhaps, one day: 

    You will learn to love, accept and forgive yourself.

    For now, hold on to your favourite quote:

    Fall down 7 times, stand up 8.

    There is no adversity you cannot overcome.

    Love,

    Jonny

  • Pooky Knightsmith

    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

  • Steven Gilbert

    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.

  • Lisa Rodrigues

     

     

    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

  • Bart Andrews

    Bart Andrews, PhD, is Vice President of Clinical Practice/Evaluation at Behavioral Health Response. Starting as a crisis intervention clinician at BHR in 1998, he has dedicated the last 18 years of this life to suicide and crisis intervention. Dr. Andrews is a person in recovery and a suicide attempt survivor, and believes that the path to suicide prevention must be framed in the context of relationships, community and culture. He echo’s Connecting with People’s own core belief that suicide is a community health problem and everyone can help. Dr. Andrews is actively involved in raising community awareness regarding suicide risk and training community members, law enforcement and other professionals in suicide assessment and intervention. He participates on several crisis and suicide related boards: serves as Vice President of the National Association of Crisis Director and is Co-Chair of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's Standards, Training and Practices Sub-Committee.

     

    Dear Bart,

    I have been asked to write you a letter that will help you get through this tough time in your life. I would love to tell you that that this painful period will be short. But since it's me talking to me, I guess it's best we be honest. The path you are on is a painful one, and the fire you are walking through will burn and leave you tender but very much alive. I know now that this was a point where you could not find your place in the world. You did not feel like you fit in, and the cost of fitting in seemed too high. You are going to make a mistake and get caught. It is going to feel like your entire life is over, that you will never recover. You are going to feel like everything you did was wrong and that you were and will never be good enough. There will be a moment that has been building for your entire life where you will see no future and no way to live. You will not be able to run anymore; you will not be able to hide. 

    What could I say to you that would make a difference? 

    You no longer run; you no longer hide. You no longer live with shame. You tell anyone and everyone about your struggles with depression, alcohol, crippling anxiety and drugs. You are not afraid of your past anymore. You have made amends where you could, you have taken your lumps when you had to and you turned and fought when you did not think fighting was possible. You owned the pain you caused others, and they still loved you - they never stopped loving you. You learned those whose opinions you valued most meant nothing. You learned that those you took for granted were precious beyond measure, and you, in turn, were precious to them. You learned, in the end, that you had always been good enough. You learned that you had no choice but to love yourself exactly as you were. You learned that you were the vice the world was using to crush you. You learned that just surviving another day was the sweetest victory. After years of running, you learned to walk, head held high. You learned you could look anyone in the eye and tell them who you were, what you had done and let them judge you if they chose. You learned that when you told your story, other people raised their heads and said "me, too." You are going to learn there are literally millions of people who struggle and fight, just like you. You are going to learn that you are not alone anymore and that you do fit in the world. You fit in the world, just perfectly, exactly as you are. You are loved, you are here, you stayed and you are grateful every day that you did. 

    With mad love, 

    Bart 

     

    Postscript: Some might be wondering why i’ve used the word ‘mad’. It’s time to take ownership back of the word ‘mad’. It’s not for the discriminators to decide which words we can and can’t use. Consider this an official act to reappropriate. Personally, I find the word mental illness offensive, however I’m forced to resort to it much too often. Our language sucks, for lack of a better word. It’s time for folks to get used to this reclamation.

  • Sarah's Letter

    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.

    Read More...

  • Natalie's Letter

    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.

    Read More...

  • Nadene's Letter

    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!

    Read More...

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