Saturday, 10 September 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.