This is probably the most difficult blog to write, because it deals with the darkest side of mental health, which is suicide.
I wrote it a while ago, but was not sure when to post it.
Last night Kim and I watched ‘Zoe’s Hardest Road Home’, the BBC/Sports Relief documentary which charted Zoe Ball’s journey of cycling 350 miles from Blackpool to Brighton in order to raise money and awareness of mental health issues.
Zoe’s experience with mental health came when her boyfriend Billy Yates (who suffered from depression) committed suicide. The documentary was an emotional watch, especially when Zoe described the last time she saw Billy.
Mental health affects approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK.
Between 2003 and 2013, 18,220 people with mental health problems took their own life in the UK (University of Manchester report 2015).
With my blogs I decided that I would be brutally honest, and use my experiences to help raise awareness of mental health issues; in particular anxiety, panic and depression.
So, have I contemplated suicide because of depression?
The answer is yes.
The anxiety and panic scared the hell out of me. When I had my first panic attack I remember thinking that something in my brain was broken.
As time went on and my condition became worse and I was unable to work; I felt lost, I didn’t know what was going on and most importantly I had no idea how the hell I was going to get better; it was like my mind and body just gave up on me.
I have had periods where I have felt very low, my medication did not feel to be working properly, and so I self medicated with alcohol; all I wanted was for the anxiety to go away.
So what thoughts went through my mind?
- I have no purpose.
- I am a burden to my wife.
- I am useless.
- It’s all my fault.
- If I had been stronger, then none of this would have happened.
- I’m never going to get well.
- I’m afraid all of the time.
- I can’t control the pain and anxiety.
It’s hard to explain what depression feels like, and how it can lead to someone taking their own life.
As far as depression goes, if you associate a colour with it, it is BLACK. You feel completely helpless and hopeless, and trying to do anything is a huge struggle. Just imagine trying to climb Everest in flip flops.
As far as what makes someone actually take their own life; I don’t know, and I won’t even try to explain it. All I will say is that as humans we are all different, we all react differently to different situations. Something that does not seem a big issue to one person can be a massive issue for another; it is all about how we interpret a situation(s).
One of the questions my GP and therapists would always ask is if I had any thoughts of harming myself; the second was how likely I was to action these thoughts. While I had thoughts of ending it all, I never felt the urge to carry out the thoughts. I would say it out loud sometimes, usually when I was in total despair, and usually after I had been drinking. I think it was more of a cry for help, an attempt for people to take my situation seriously.
I’m still here, so what stopped me from crossing the line?
- I am married to my soul mate, Kim. I love her so much that I could not imagine being without her or hurting her.
- I still had a purpose (I think people struggle the most, when they lose all hope); while I thought I had no purpose, in the back of my mind there was still a tiny glimmer, I still thought about Dream On Foundation, and how I could use my experience to help others. In these two things I finally found my passion and direction in life.
These two things were the thin threads that kept, and still keep me going.
I have huge respect for Zoe Ball for raising awareness of mental health issues, self harm and suicide. When a physical response to an issue is that someone could take their own life, then it needs highlighting and taking seriously.
As individuals, it is our responsibility to speak up if we are struggling, and seek help sooner rather than later. The belief that you have to suffer in silence and be strong is rubbish; it takes more courage to admit you have a problem, and it takes immense bravery to seek out help.
Remember, from the outside you will probably look fine; people cannot read your mind, and there is no bandage wrapped around your head to make it obvious.
You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to do something about it; shout and scream, but make sure you get someone’s attention, and get help. Don’t just say ‘I’m Fine!’
One of the areas where we experience the most stress is at work, with this in mind, companies need to take mental health in the work place more seriously; it’s not good enough for them to promise that they put paramount importance on health and safety when they do not have the necessary support systems in place to deal with these issues.
Saying ‘stress is just the nature of the job’ is also not good enough. The more stressful the working environment, the more policies and procedures they need to have in place.
The more we can all do to raise awareness of mental health issues, and promote different treatments, then the better the chance we have of helping people to recover. This in turn will mean that less people are left to mourn the loss of a loved due to this illness.
I have very close friends who have lost loved ones who took their own lives because of depression; I do not know how they fee, but I wanted to say that my thoughts will always be with them.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.