Saturday, 10 September 2016

World Suicide Prevention Day 2016

It's World Suicide Prevention Day today, the theme this year is 'Connect. Communicate. Care.' There is no single truth to suicide. Whether we have been bereaved by suicide or have been close to ending our lives, we all have our individual stories to tell. Days like today though are an important time for us to talk - and to listen. The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds. Up to 25 times as many again make a suicide attempt.

This is what this year's theme means to me.

 After Simon's death I felt lost and isolated. I had my family of course and we were a source of strength to each other but we all had to deal with our own grief first. Friends were a comfort too but had their own lives, they would never say my needs were a burden but I couldn't monopolise their lives with my loss. I needed to talk to somebody who understood. I probably should have gone to see my GP after Simon's suicide but I was too numb to think logically. The system was very good at dealing with practicalities. The police informed us, took us to identify his body, the coroner carried out his post mortem and his body was released to the funeral directors so we could have his funeral. The steps to managing a death were followed smoothly. We weren't offered any advice on how to cope with the emotional fallout though. I felt lost but was expected to find my own way out of my grief. I did (or at least I still am) and connecting with other people bereaved by suicide was definitely an important factor in my recovery. To communicate with others,  whether those who have lost loved ones to suicide, or those burdened with suicidal talks is so vitally important. Suicide needs to be talked about, it shouldn't be a taboo subject but even now I'm occasionally wary of mentioning how my brother died in case I make the other person uncomfortable. Having these conversations though it the only way to quash that discomfort. It means our voices, those of us bereaved and those of us who feel, or have ever felt suicidal, must be heard by professionals, by policymakers, clinicians and other service providers. It means the media learn they have to report deaths by suicide responsibly. It means this crisis that is leading to vast numbers of unnecessary deaths, to millions left to try and make sense of suicide can't be ignored.
Connect today, communicate with others who live with the shadow of suicide, those still in its darkness and those who have tentatively emerged back into a fragile light. Care for others and just as importantly take the time to care for yourself because you matter. No matter what your mind is telling you, you matter and I care.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Four years...

And so 4 years have passed. As soon as it was August I've been thinking about this date. Not that I ever really stop thinking of what happened, most of the time though I'm able to push it to the back of my mind. As the anniversary has approached however, I've been remembering those awful days again. Of course the Olympics are on TV and I think will forever now be associated in my mind with Simon's death. That's all I remember from the summer of 2012, the Olympics and having to somehow get through each day when nothing made sense anymore.
I still miss him so much. Not that I saw him very often, but just the knowledge that he was there. And then he wasn't. I still find it hard when we pass the turning to the road his car was found in. I still can't hear Under the Bridge without remembering his funeral. I will never get used to having to talk of him in the past tense. I had two brothers and now I have one. Rob is the best brother anyone could wish for, he knows how much I love him. But I should still have two brothers and I will never be okay with that loss for I've lost a part of me.
It's four years on though and so time has done what time tends to do. Daily life has become the balm that has soothed the raw pain and while I may always bear a deeper sense of loss, a sadness that will never quite leave me, I know that as years pass this anniversary becomes a little easier each year. I lost a bit of myself when I lost Simon but I've slowly been rebuilding a new me. It's imperfect of course, but then it always was, we all have our scars and our flaws. Is it a better me? In some ways perhaps it is. I've become more aware of mental health, more invested in trying to help reduce the stigma. I try to be more forgiving, I try to remind myself that you can never know what inner turmoils people are battling. Life is too short to bear grudges. I've become more political though, I think given what has happened both nationally and internationally over the past four years that was inevitable but perhaps now I care less about what people think about me. I certainly listen more, have learned to be less defensive and I'm finding that feeling criticised or uncomfortable means I should examine my thoughts and beliefs. When Simon died I felt as though I'd had my skin torn from my body. I lost a sense of my self. I remember wondering how I could feel ripped apart and yet so numb, so very numb, at the same time. How could I feel everything and yet nothing at the same time? Four years on and I believe I'm more empathic, the kindness of friends and strangers continues to touch me. Today will soon be tomorrow and my life - a normal, messy, unpredictable, and yes happy life - will go on. Simon may not be with us but he'll always be a part of us. Four years after his suicide and I'm not just surviving, I'm doing what became too hard for him. I'm living.

A strangely prophetic picture, I'm with Rob on the right, Simon with us but apart...