September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Here in the UK, the mental heath charity MIND has a very useful list of resources.
Some may find the following disturbing, and my views might seem a little contrary:
My most vivid memory of my teens is waking up in my room to realise, with a crushing disappointment, that I had survived the overdose I took the previous evening. My family never knew about my attempt. I spent the morning crying whilst cleaning up the vomit myself. No help was sought.
I was 17 and had recently started sixth-form college, away from the bullies that had plagued me for a decade. You might think this was great? It was – until I realised how badly damaged I was. Unable to cope with being around people I took to hiding in a small study area outside of class times, where I had bonded with a group of other misfits who hid there. But constant fear and tension around other people (however nice they were) made me hyper-alert, depressed and exhausted. The thought of speaking or the sound of laughter causing me physical stress responses. Life consisted of watching others socialising, laughing, making plans for university etc, but I felt completely dissociated from it and unable to cross that bridge. Utter loneliness without being alone.
One spring day I could no longer tolerate it, locked myself in my room and swallowed two bottles of painkillers. The hour I lay there waiting for something to happen was the first time I had felt at peace in a decade. I still remember that feeling and for years it was so very tempting to go back there on the bad days.
21 years later I finally got the help I needed after planning another attempt. That was 13 years ago now and CBT helped me deal with the damage to my self worth inflicted by my childhood.
It seems easy for some (with no understanding) to dismiss suicidal feelings with a ‘don’t worry – it will all seem better tomorrow’ or well-meaning advice to ‘snap out of it’ or the classic guilt-tripping about it being a ‘selfish’ act and ‘what about the people you will leave behind’. Then there is always the reverse-psychology approach of calling it ‘the coward’s way out’.
Politicians and employers try to make the right noises about ‘support’ but the cynic in me knows that in their cold hearts they only care about the economic cost of suicide, the inconvenience to business or the possible legal ramifications. Hence the rise of the professional Stress Management industry – making profit from people damaged by the world’s relentless quest for, ironically, profit. My impression is that these companies really just offer an ass-covering service that benefits employers in the event of a lawsuit. It doesn’t remove any stress but just allows employers to get away with pushing people even further.
Any media report on suicide or mental health always includes the figures on the ‘cost to the economy’ (example). I realise this is often a way to push the point home to the lawmakers using the only language they understand. But it depresses me – and yes I see the irony there!
I already know the coping mechanisms for stress, thank you Mr corporate-suited psychologist-for-hire. I have had enough years of wanting to ride around on the bus all day and never reaching either work or home and the demands of others. What I want is for the stress to GO AWAY before I feel compelled to take myself away from it!
Sorry if this sounds angry. I am angry. But anger is a good motivator and I would take this over depression any day.
There are still days when I regret that first attempt did not work. It seemed the right thing to do at the time, and my life as a young boy still causes me difficulties today.
Therefore I confess to feeling somewhat ambivalent regarding ‘suicide prevention’ as I firmly believe in the rights of the individual to do whatever they like with their own body – including ending their life. I would prefer to see ‘unhappiness prevention’ and ways of tackling the issues that cause people to have suicidal feelings in the first place by encouraging kindness, putting people and the environment before profit, ending bullying in all its forms (including, incidentally, removal of internet privileges for overgrown orange toddlers with oval offices….)
By the time someone is considered to need suicide prevention then the world has already failed them.