WARNING: this post contains material that some may find upsetting and confronting, if you feel depressed and unsafe, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14
Today, 10th September, is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day when many people around the globe promote their work towards prevnting thousands of deaths each year from suicide. Many of us can recall a time when we heard of someone who died from suicide. Their death will always be etched in our minds, the circumstances whether known or not will always stick in our heads like glue and the sadness we feel will linger because we will continue to ask why.
On this day I reflect on my life, of my mental illness and my attempts to take my own life. I have reached a point in my recovery where I have never felt so healthy and happy. I still refer to it as recovery because I will never be cured from mental illness, it will never be eliminated from my life. Mental illness will always be with me, some days more acute than others, but mostly my life at the moment is free of depression. To not have depression hanging over me like a dark cloud every day is very new to me, I don’t remember a time in my life when depression wasn’t in my life. I love animals but the Black Dog that has been a part of my life, endlessly, lingering constantly, has interfered with my life for way too many years and I have finally reached a time in my recovery when the Black Dog has gone.
I know there will be times when the Black Dog will reappear but I now have a the strength, the support and the medications to keep him at bay. He is still there but I only sense his shadow but with focus and rest his shadow moves further away.
It is easy for anyone to talk about suicide and say it is the ‘easy way out’, but for those going through suicidal thoughts they don’t see it as easy or a way out, for most at that point when we try to take our own life the psychosis distorts reality. You don’t understand what is happening, you don’t remember to call for help and you don’t recall the strategies that you have worked on in trying stay well.
So often when someone dies from suicide we hear people say ‘they seemed so happy’, ‘there were no signs’,’why’, ‘I don’t understand’……..the truth is sometimes these questions are reality but there are times where the signs were there we just didn’t have the knowledge to recognise the depression, the place where someone is mentally, and more tanning likely we have been pushed away. We relate being pushed away as a conflict but it most cases those who are severely depressed, who are having suicidal thoughts in some way want to protect those around them by pushing them away.
Prior to each of my attempts at suicide I can now clearly recall pushing away people in my life, either through conflict or by isolating myself from those around me.on reflection I didn’t know what my intentions were, I didn’t know that I wanted to take my life.
The thing is it is easy to as someone R U Ok? but few know what they would do if someone said no, few understand the seriousness if the answer is not but even fewer would recognise that ‘I am fine’ actually means the opposite. Some of us may not even know that someone around us is suffering from depression. We are not mental health professionals, few of us have lived experience to understand the signs and even fewer of us would know what to do.
World Suicide Prevention Day promotes the good work of many people and organisations in helping to,prevent suicide. The work of these people are instrumental in saving lives but many people fall through the system and sadly die. For many years I battled with he mental health system, searching for answers to rid me of this deep depression but I struggled to find answers and I didn’t find my way out of the dark cloud, away from the Black Dog. It wasn’t until my circumstances changed that I was able to receive the support and access to adequate health care that assisted me in moving away from the Black Dog and travelling down a long road to recovery.
There is so much more required to prevent death by suicide, it’s not mental health professionals aren’t doing all they can, it’s not that their program’s and campaigns aren’t working. It is that there is just not enough professionals, resources and support networks to not just help those at high risk of suicide but to help people living with someone, or knows someone with a mental illness to understand the signs and what they need to do.. Asking RUOK?, is just the start, so much more comes after that question, it’s those who are most prepared who can help someone at risk of suicide. Preparing people in preventing suicide is a whole of community need, it could be a parent, a child, sibling, relative, neighbour, friend, school friend or work colleague, but we all have in common is our desire to want to help others, but with out the resources to help we risk seeing more in our community dying from suicide.
World Suicide Prevention Day is not just about recognising those around us that die nor is it just about promtong what program’s and campaigns are available it should more importantly be a reason, a priority for governments at all levels to drive more money, professionals and resources into mental health because suicide should not be one of the highest causes of death!