Let’s talk about ... suicide
Posted Friday 9 September 2011
This is a guest blog from Charlotte for World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.I have spent a large part of my life thinking about killing myself.
I’ve thought about how to do it, when to do it, where to do it. I’ve thought about it as a teenager, a pregnant woman, a new mum, a student, a manager.
I’ve thought about it while I’m at work, while I’m on holiday, alone in the dead of night and during big social gatherings. It’s not something I often mention; it feels a little bit dangerous to write it down. So why am I breaking the silence somewhere as public as the Mind blog?
A survey published last month by the Samaritans found that suicide is still considered a "taboo subject". One third of those surveyed said that if they had suicidal feelings, they would not discuss them with anyone at all.
That survey tells me that too many of us are keeping quiet, and I’d like to try and challenge the taboo by starting a conversation about the issue.
Suicidal thoughts are not something to be ashamed of; they are a recognised part of a number of mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
I am not weak or selfish for having them, and they are not my “fault”. Tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day (sponsored by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and co-sponsored by the World Health Organisation), and if we want to try and reduce the numbers of people taking their own lives, honesty and openness about our suicidal feelings seems a good place to start. (Ed's note: Updated for accuracy 11am 9 Sep 2011)
There are many reasons I’ve kept quiet about my suicidal feelings. Sometimes talking at all seems too difficult, because feeling very tired and socially withdrawn are both symptoms of severe depression.
Usually, I keep my feelings to myself because I worry about upsetting or frightening people close to me; no-one wants to hear that their loved one is contemplating suicide. I’ve also been anxious that they will over-react and I’ll find myself hospitalised or, ironically, that I won’t be taken seriously (there is a pernicious, but completely untrue, myth that those who talk about it don’t do it and are just “attention-seekers”).
NICE recommends that healthcare professionals ask depressed clients directly about suicidal thoughts or plans. I’d like us to begin to discuss suicidal thoughts more widely in this matter-of-fact way.
If someone you know is brave enough to disclose suicidal feelings, try to listen calmly, even if you feel upset - your non-judgemental support is worth more than you can know. You might want to inform yourself by reading Mind’s How to cope with suicidal feelings, which explores why suicidal feelings can occur, and what services may help.
The times when I have found someone willing to listen to me, rather than trying to “talk me out of it”, have been a great relief. Sharing the feelings with a supportive listener can dilute their power, so that I feel less likely to act upon them.
Let’s get this conversation going. It might save somebody’s life.
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