This post is making me feel nervous. I have thought about it for a while and in essence it is massively exposing my vulnerability and I am worrying about the reactions of my readers to the content. I take so much time to consider exactly what I write so that I can have clarity and I have certainly agonised over this post trying to get the right message…but I am being brave and taking the plunge, so here goes:
Tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day. I am not going to profess to be an expert on this subject area or that I can cover the vast topic in a single post but I have written a little something on it from the perspective of my depression rather than any other mental health problems. And maybe some of that might be a little controversial or difficult to read, but perhaps it might change how you think about it. It has however been part of the influence on my aims for my life ahead, changing negatives to positives.
I have been a person, one among many, on a station platform or train, trying to get to work or home from work and someone has jumped in front of a train. It is hard when we are going through our normal everyday life and there is disruption to that routine that we do not feel frustrated. But I would like to spend some time with you considering that jumper as an individual with a past, a history, to empathise a little more. What makes a person jump or not?
I am also someone who has thought about suicide, I have considered it, in a theoretical way, although never attempted it. I have reached points in my life where I felt useless and hopeless that there was a purpose to my life, and thought about a way out. Suicide has been one of the ways of escape I have ‘fantasized’ although my more favoured option was actually running away. There have been things that stopped me from taking any course of action, but nevertheless those thoughts have been there, real and recurring.
Jumping in front of a train was the only method of suicide I considered. Maybe it was circumstance more than anything. I remember standing on a cold dark platform in the early hours of the mornings going to work. I was in my worst ever dark place. I used to have to stand well back from the edge unless the urge just caught me unawares. I was always fighting that once I had ‘those’ thoughts.
I used to think about what it would feel like to go under the front of a train, would it hurt, would I die instantly? I also thought about other things. I thought about my daughters and how I didn’t want to leave them, even though I thought they would be better off without me. I thought about how my family would feel that I had taken drastic action, their shock and hurt, maybe embarrassment. I thought about all the people I would inconvenience in doing so, both on the train and waiting for me at work. Interestingly I don’t recall particularly think about the train driver.
So ultimately the thoughts that kept me grounded, the rational thoughts were not just about me but my attachment to my immediate family and the consequences for them. When I think about what I have understood about people being saved from suicide attempts is that an attempt is like a moment of blind panic where none of the rational thoughts are able to counteract the negative view. But it is possible to talk a person down from a bridge, a person with their stomach pumped can be glad they survived. Those things are about reigniting attachments to others.
In my case I felt that I had no one to talk to, I was isolated, detached from myself and my family. I am sure that to most people around me I appeared ‘normal’. In short I was lacking in support from my family and friends, although this is not to blame them, but to comment on the fact that I grew up in a familial culture in which emotions were not discussed and dealt with but hidden. It is very difficult therefore to know any different and then to forge that path yourself.
What is apparent to me is that suicide is a desperate situation at the end of a long road for the victim, someone taking an horrific, more often than not irreversible, step. It is not a flash in the pan, no one wakes up one day and thinks it’s a good idea when their life is going well; there is something missing from that person’s life and that is someone to talk to, to balance those emotions. We somehow need to get the message to people that it is ok to talk about our emotional health and provide an easier path to do so (How about phones to the Samaritan’s on the platforms anyone, or at least some bloody big posters with their number on??).
I am only now, in my thirties, learning the importance of proper communication within the family and among friends. I try now to be more open when things are difficult for me and this has really helped me not to feel alone and deal with my problems more rationally. We need to address the enormous problem of poor mental health much earlier; to teach our children empathy, emotional literacy and fluency, and to destigmatise mental illness. And that is why we need to talk so that we connect and communicate deeply and at the end of the day to prevent some of these unnecessary deaths.