Suicide still carries an enormous stigma for not only those who survive suicide attempts but for the families of those who have taken their own life. My mother took her own life when I was five years old; she left behind a husband and two daughters. I remember my dad telling me that mummy had gone to sleep and that she hadn’t woken up. As I got older I couldn’t understand why no one spoke of her death or why friends and family rarely spoke of her. As a child I remember not understanding why my mother wasn't there, and wondering what could be so bad for her family not to speak of her. I remember comparing my loss to a girl in my school class who had lost her mum to cancer and thinking that our losses were somehow different. As I got older I became more aware that there was something that wasn’t being spoken about, something I didn’t fully understand.
No one ever made a conscious decision to keep her death a secret, but It wasn’t till I was older that I learnt the truth about my mum’s death. As a teenager and adult I have struggled with my own mental health, I have struggled to cope and come to terms with a loss I didn’t fully understand and to mourn someone I didn’t even remember. I have spent a long time being angry at her, not understanding how she could have left us. I have struggled to talk about her death to others, I wrongly interpreted people’s discomfort around the word 'suicide' as a sign I shouldn’t say anything. I would tell people that she had died when I was little and I would quickly change the subject underplaying the loss as much as possible because I thought that that was the right thing to do.
Talking helped me come to terms
My own recovery journey has taught me that by not talking about your experiences you are depriving yourself of support. By keeping suicide a secret it feeds the idea that the person who has died did something shameful. Talking about suicide helps the people left behind, normalises their experience. By being able to talk about my mum's death I have found community and support, instead of feeling alone in my grief and anger I found a shared experience with others.
By talking about suicide it helps to reduce stigma for families but also encourages those who have thought about or attempted suicide to seek support. By talking about suicide it helps remind people that it is not a choice; it is the darkest of time where all rational thinking is gone, combined with overwhelming pain and unbearable hopelessness. Mental illness is still too often seen as a weakness, with behaviours as being intentional or avoidable if the person only tried harder. The stigma and lack of awareness around mental health has stopped me sharing my experiences and even asking for help at times, however I am passionate and hopeful for the future and believe that we can make big changes by simply talking to others.
I’m Touria, and this is why I’m talking for Dorset this Time to Talk Day.