This past week was Mental Health Awareness Week, where we try and highlight the threat mental health issues pose to each and every one of us. It affects the majority of us at one point in our lives at least. These issues are reportedly more common with women than with men, possibly because women are more likely to seek help. It is rampant within the LGBT community due to the stress, anxiety, and depression caused with hiding in the closet and being oppressed and shunned out of it. Living with mental health is one thing. But mental health issues end lives.
I live in Preston in Lancashire. It is officially the suicide capital of the United Kingdom. As a city, we see more suicides per year than anywhere else in the country. For those of us who live here, we constantly hear about the poor souls who leap to their deaths from the top of our famous bus station or step in front of trains coming out of our train station and more. I witnessed someone jump off the bus station. I was coming in on a bus on my commute home and I saw a figure fall to their death.
The reaction to this suicide
What struck me, however, wasn’t the act of suicide itself. No, it was the reaction to it. Bus station staff had the visibility screens up and around the body within less than three minutes. The unfortunate individual was a woman. I spotted her shoe and handbag lying nearby. The suicide also didn’t affect service. Buses were immediately rerouted and no delays appeared to occur. I realised I was stood in a building that is used to these events occurring. They know how to react.
Suicide is endemic
Suicide is endemic, particularly with men aged between 20-49 for who it is their greatest killer.
Close to 75% of those who commit suicide are never diagnosed with mental health issues and only 5% of those who are diagnosed with depression take their own lives. This is the hidden killer that will remain hidden, taking lives until we as a society stand up and face it head on. Piers Morgan this week decided to continue his talent for being a massive **** by denying that close to 34 million people are estimated to suffer from mental health issues and that we all need to man up. That attitude kills.
Young men like me are taking their lives and those they leave behind usually never see it coming. They can never imagine why their loved one would choose to end their lives. You hear it every time someone does end their life. Their family and friends say how happy they appeared to be, how loved and how loving they themselves were. It is hard to fathom why someone would choose to end their lives.
Reasons for suicide are unique and complex
Understanding why people commit suicide is nigh impossible, because it isn’t always clear to those attempt it and survive. People rely on letters left by those who have taken their own life as a way of finding solace. However, the reasons why don’t matter after the fact. They matter before hand and if we refuse to talk about them, suicides will continue to occur. People will continue to die.
I recently had a phone appointment with MindsMatter in Preston so that I can talk to a therapist. The woman on the phone asked me if I ever had suicidal thoughts. I explained that I have had casual thoughts of death and suicide for years. I explained that I hadn’t actually genuinely considered suicide for over seven years. It is true. I haven’t thought about physically hurting myself or ending my life in a serious fashion for many years now. But I do still think how it might be easier to be dead rather than dealing with what life currently throws at me.
Reasons to stop
I have a friend. He considered suicide. In fact, he placed the cold steel of his pen knife against his wrist. He was going to do it. Slice through his skin and his vessels and let life bleed out of him. Thankfully, he didn’t. He stopped himself. It wasn’t for any reason concerning himself, he admitted to me when he told me what had happened. No, he took the blade away from hiw wrist because of what that act would have done to those around him.
He didn’t want his parents to find their 16-year-old son dead in his room by his own hand. He didn’t want his friends attending his funeral not knowing how they could have saved him or that he was suffering so badly. And he didn’t want to hurt those who loved him by hurting himself. My reason for never get that close to ending it all was down to in small part to my ego.
A little ego is good… a lot of ego is dangerous
There is a famous quote that says, “The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something, but to be something”. When I was considering ending my life because of the struggle of my sexuality, my future, my education, my relationships with family and friends and every other little pressure I felt when I was 17, I had an epiphany. I am worth more. It wasn’t a moment when I thought I was worth more than others. No. I realised I was worth more than death.
I was alive. Life may have been a struggle and still is a struggle even now, but I am alive. I am breathing, thinking, talking and typing. That means I have potential. Life isn’t a gift. It is a bitch who loves to beat you down constantly and laugh at you coldly as it does it. But through all those beatings and all those push backs, there is potential. All life has potential and that is the entire purpose of life. To find your potential and live it.
You cannot do that if you end your life. That is what I told myself. That is why I didn’t end it all those years ago.
If you ever do consider suicide…
If you reach that point where you ever consider taking your own life, there are people you can talk to.
The Samaritans have a 24 hour helpline 7 days a week on 116 123.
There is CALM (Campaign against Living Miserably) which tries to give men a safe space to talk about their issues.
There is the If U Care Share campaign which aims to get those suffering with undiagnosed mental health issues that so often lead to suicide to talk. Talking and opening up is just one of the ways of preventing people taking their own lives.