We know the word suicide. We hear it all the time now. We listen as our favourite singer opens up about their depression, we turn on Sky news to find that famous celebrity who’s outfit we admired in the magazine last week has been found dead while the words “personal tragedy” and “not treating death as suspicious” flash on the screen. We click into websites online such as her.ie to hear of another family’s account and pleas for change after losing a loved one to suicide. We scroll down the article to come face to face with photos of man, woman or child that is no longer alive. Some of us move on to another article swiftly, and some stare for what seems like hours at the computer screen with a feeling unable to be shrugged off. All the pain from the black and white font is so easily transpired onto us strangers who are looking at your words , reading your pain but feeling it with empathy and despair that we once felt when faced with it ourselves. There will be those who don’t need to see this article to know what it’s about. To many this isn’t and will never be an article, blog post or a death notice for they could never sum up the person in the picture who meant so much to them.
As much as you may try we can’t block out the word suicide. We can turn off our phone but it still surrounds us. There is no where in this world safe enough to keep the word away. It’s on the street. It’s in our schools and many a funeral in our churches. We hear it at work and we come home only to wake up hearing the echoes of helplessness around us.
We try and we try again and again to push it away but it’s all around so we urge those suicidal to speak up before it’s too late.
Once suicidal becomes suicide there isn’t any getting back.
We’re told again and again to talk, to reach out but what happens if it doesn’t go away immediately. What are we left with and what do we say?
Last year 13,000 adults presented to Irish emergency departments or arrived unannounced at acute psychiatric units in need of hospital treatment for serious mental health issues.
When mental health presents in the accident and emergency departments in hospitals all around it can go one of few ways. For many it’s the only place to turn when in crisis or out of work hours. When medical treatment is vital you will be seen and treated physically until medically cleared. This is in the case of deliberate injury to oneself, accidental injury due to your mental state or attempted suicides along with drug overdose and alcohol poisoning. Treatment is essential for ones physical health in these cases. Many will and many have been turned away after hurting oneself if medical attention isn’t acquired with more often than not no mental health assessment especially if your gp is aware or your getting some sort of mental health treatment even if your next appointment may be a month from then.
Maybe you’ll be reviewed by the on call pysch professional and admitted until they can get in contact with a psychiatric unit or make contact with your areas on call mental health team.
You may be reviewed but you could be sent home five minutes later with a referral letter which potentially could be a wait of weeks if not months.
Maybe they’ll give you some once off prescription for Valium to take that night and hope they won’t be seeing you the following night.
Your notes may be handed over to the doctor who passed you hyperventilating in the corner of the corridor completely unaware that you are the person who’s notes he skims down through.
I’ve seen security being called to handle a “loud disruptive patient” clearly in the midst of a psychotic epidsode while they threaten to bring in the gaurds to deal with said person.
I’ve seen sedation being given involuntarily to those manic, those severely anxious and those in hightened distress.
I’ve seen and known many to wait more than twelve hours to be reviewed after presenting in crisis. I also know of stories of people walking out of the hospital after waiting hours with no sign of any word or intervention. Some of these people walked out and took their lives moments later which may have not even been their intention on initial presentation.
At fifteen I witnessed a man in his twenties with a large thick bandage surrounding his wrist and forearm. The bandage was new for you could tell it was recently seen too and dressed but the amount of dark red patches seeping through would worry even the most carefree. He began shouting and state that if he walked out them doors of accident and emergency he would take his life. He said this over and over while getting more worked up in himself. They opened the doors and told him to head home and from what I remember he was forcefully removed from the building. I looked around pleading with my eyes. How was this happening. I didn’t find the answers. Instead I watched as expressionless faces carried on with what they were doing beforehand as if the last twenty minutes hadn’t even happened. The wound to his wrist was no way superficial and that was clear but is cry for help seemed to be passed off as superficial threats. I made a mental note to try see if there was any word on his safety the following morning.
This is all when asking professionals for help when in crisis but what if this crisis is lasting longer than a few hours, longer than the night ?
When your suicidal thoughts are persisting and it’s not an immediate short term state of mind or thought process things get very difficult. In many areas not just your mind.
In my case I’m on an antidepressants and when these thoughts start to get a hold over me again I see the doctor and we talk about what’s going on. Maybe it was triggered by something small I found unbearably stressful and in that case maybe tomorrow I’ll laugh about it but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s weeks or even a month or two drilling away. It’s nights that consist of looking out the window and listening to music trying to put off going to sleep because the morning will come quicker if tou sleep now and all you want in that moment is to lie down and wake up when it’s passed. A nights sleep just doesn’t do it sometimes.
It’s not always about wanting to be dead and actively seeking that out. Seems it sometimes but it’s not like that at all at times. It once was but not anymore. Right now it consists of constant aching body whether it’s from twisting and turning every night in my sleep or maybe it’s just from my inability to relax right now. Even though I do sometimes. But very very seldom and somehow only when I’m with you. It’s this heaviness being carried around inside you day to day. It’s going to sleep with the light on because the thought of getting up to turn off the light seems pointless and yet impossible at the same time. It’s going outside for hours on end just listening to music and looking ahead or staring at the sky because right now it seems like the only direction obvious enough to stand out especially when completely lost as to where to go and where to start. It’s irritability and snappiness with out even meaning to be like that. This starts some spark of conflict. I feel bad but I am clueless as to why you could even think I can keep this up. How I can even tolerate this much.
Can’t you see I’m trying to stay away from the bed. I’m trying to stay awake and I’m trying to be responsible without shutting off when that’s all I want right now. Sure that’s one of the reasons I head up the my bedroom with the phone off and the curtains drawn. I can’t lose my patience or forget my manners when it’s just me. I’m not upsetting anyone or making any one cross. I’m not letting you down or I can’t let you see me as a failure wasting her life while everyone else is out studying or working.
I met some of my family a few weeks ago. He asked what I was doing with myself, what courses was I going to look into and why wasn’t I driving. Usually I would shy away from this discussion and reply yeah I’m in the process but I was so thick at his ignorance. “What am I doing with my life” I said ” I’m existing” .
That was enough of an answer to shut him up. To you it may look like I’m doing nothing with myself. That’s definitely not true. In comparison to you yes I may seem like a waster who can’t get her shit together. But if you turn the comparison around I didn’t have the opportunity to go through all of secondary school. I got excempt from my junior cert without even being asked if I wanted to do it. While you were doing the two year leaving cert course I was fighting battles completely different. I wasn’t picking subjects I was trying to choose between life and death. My brain is still coming around to normality. I have to completely relearn new ways to think and try work and plan the future that I began wishing away in sixth class.
It isn’t a matter of destructive urges or not. Yes they come and go that’s unfortunate but to constantly beat these thoughts is an achievement in itself but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. I choose to not act on these and I won’t act on these but that doesn’t mean your okay 100% or that your in fully recovery and that just because it’s not a risk it’s not important.
You see my eyes when I come down from my room and you know I’ve spent hours crying but you get what you need and go back watching telly. You text me and ask am I okay and at this point I respond grand automatically because what’s the point in even saying I’m not. Your just gonna say I wish I could help or do something.
I’m so sick of hearing I’m here for you. Most people dealing with this are. It’s like the common thing to say now with no meaning whatsoever. If you were there you’d actually come over to just stay in bed for awhile as Netflix plays in the background or just talk about anything and anything but feeling down and admitting it puts an end to all of that. I’m too much of a buzzkill to go partying with right now so you’ll see me when I am actually feeling better or pretend to be in great form because seems that’s all you can handle.
Your granny asks how you are ? If you answer honestly she gets upset and starts to cry. You really don’t want that so you smile and say I’m doing really good right now sure I’m flying it.
If your at home and your sisters are running around you isolate yourself in the bedroom. Atleast then they don’t have to see it or maybe you just get away with the typical teenage attitude of ugh it’s you most younger siblings give at that age.
It’s terrifying to even try talk to someone about this. Those that don’t know you but think they do because they passed you in the school corridor a few times will probably brand you crazy anyway like all the other times. All you have to do is reply okay to the dreaded how are you question from a few family members and they’re crying anyway. Your friends ? Course not because you’d either worry them or your invisible until you start jumping around again and demanding cocktails. Your boyfriend or girlfriend who you absolutely adore but didn’t know you at your worst so are filled with worry when seeing you as you are now. What happens when they become so filled with fear that you’ll act on your feelings they can’t do anything but walk away because maybe you’ll hurt yourself again and that’s too much to handle. Or your mental health team who can’t let you head out for the weekend because you said how you feel and even though you don’t pose a risk if by chance something happened it would be on their hands because you did mention it after all.
You tell us to talk but there’s far much more at stake when we do open up and answer honestly. So what do you expect ? We risk our freedom, we risk hurting our close ones, we risk the fact that we know we will probably be in bed questioning everything when you choose to only be with me when I’m happy, we risk being put on more medication and observed closely, we risk our every moment because it’s going to be noted and discussed and more than likely will have consequences because your feeling crap and everyone is just trying to help after all. You risk losing the person your in love with and you risk any bit of wellbeing you have left once all this starts to happen because you said how you feel.
You said that word suicidal. The word we can’t get away from. Well those that are suicidal never get away from it because when feeling like that or struggling to find your purpose in life you will never get away from it. You may just have a thought running through your mind. ” I wish this would all go away” .. You don’t have to Have a mental illness to have these thoughts. Stress, Exams, grief, money problems, anxiety so many things can bring them one. It’s when your struggling to see a way out. That doesn’t mean your going to hurt yourself or that you’ve even a risk it just means that’s how it seems to you right now but of course you can get through it and of course you can cope with it without even thinking for a second about the shorter word to how you feel.
If you ask us to speak up and to reach out please don’t make assumptions that we are just saying it or that were just exaggerating because you need to ask the person when this comes up if they have any intention or desire to end their life. Some will say they do and approach that as you would but when somebody tells you that they feel like this but are not a risk to themselves in any way and you believe them then don’t jump to the conclusion it’s inevitable and it’s a given that it’s going to happen. There are many forms and many severities of states of mind likewise with everything else in this world and its ranging spectrum.
As a country we can’t expect to tackle suicide when we run a mile when the word suicidal is mentioned.
We can’t try tackle stigma if having depression means you’ll bring everyone down or your not fun anymore. It’s us in ourselves that are dealing with the depression or anxiety or any internal battle like that. We’re not trying to push it on to you and we’re not trying to bring you down. When we can we will just try be us as best we can and rant on about silly stuff or beg you for details of your new crush. We will go to the cinema and we’ll go get out and have fun. Just because we may feel like this now doesn’t mean we are now this pessimist polly trying to sabotage the happiness of the world. Hell no. We can aspire to do all the things your planing for the next few months. Like the burning man festival or scuba diving in the blue reef yeah so I may not get going to do these things for ten years but I figure I have roughly 40 healthy years left at least so we’ve time.
What we feel inside us doesn’t determine the future ahead of us and it doesn’t automatically mean we’re gonna go and become ready and reckless because well isn’t that what suicidal is?
Well it’s not. Being suicidal doesn’t mean you are planning to hurt yourself just like being schizophrenic doesn’t mean your always talk to yourself. I talk to myself all the time and I’m really just going through my to do list in my head out loud.
Stigma has stereotypes.
Ending stigma will hopefully end all these known stereotypes and maybe than medical terminology and mental disorders will become less important and the human being who’s reflection we see everyday in the mirror will eventually be just you or me or whoever you want to be. Do what makes you happy and be who you want to be. Stereotypes are like music genres. We’re not a melody and we’re not a lyrics. We are all somebody. We have a beating heart and we’re all in this journey of life together right now so lavish in the good while we have it but don’t lose sight that we need balance. The yin yang. There will be bad and there will be good. There will be times of peace and times of war. There will be darkness and light and it’s when we forget this or deny this we fall off balance. ☯ (tada even the emoji to go with it)
Who knows you may even find yourself in the Guiness Book Of World Records for your out of this world balancing skills on the coolest unicycle.
Don’t give up. Not now not ever. Sometimes we just have to be patient while the good circles back around or hopeful while we fight for our spark to rebuild itself back up enough to shine like those stars in the sky like we’ve done before and like we’ll do over and over again.
(Okay that was dreary but hey it’s like a Disney story.. We’ll sort of kinda okay maybe not at all. But it had a happy ending and a plot twist cause no way did it look like it was going like that)
It’s four am and I gotta sleep because this has been on my mind since eight pm this evening.
Lots of love