June 1, 2015

Warning: This blog contains material about suicide which may be triggering to some readers.

I’ve been very fortunate to have been involved with Time to Change for three years, and during that period I’ve met a lot of remarkable people who challenge stigma and discrimination around mental health on a daily basis.Tim's blog And all that hard work is paying off – attitudes really are improving. It feels like we’ve reached a tipping point, as layers of stigma are stripped away.

There is still one huge taboo with regards to mental illness though, I think, and that is suicide. Numbers are rising, particularly amongst men. In 2013 4,858 men took their own lives, and suicide is now the leading cause of death of men under 50 in this country. We have to talk about suicide.

It was the elephant in the room

For my family, the issue of suicide was brought into sharp focus in 2006, when my sister took her own life. My mum was convinced she had bipolar disorder like I do, but my sister was in denial and would accept no help. The shock devastated our family and her many friends – any of whom would have helped had they known about the battle she was fighting. In the days afterwards you go through a whole range of emotions, trying to make sense of the situation:

Guilt- could I have changed the outcome had I been around?

Anger- that she had selfishly taken the easy way out and left us to clear up the mess but, mostly, just an indelible sadness that I could never talk to her again, or give her a hug. Afterwards life goes on, but something is altered forever. Everything seems diminished. Our family dealt with it like I’m sure many do; we didn’t talk about it. It was the elephant in the room.

Some people might think suicide is selfish - this is far from the case

In the years that followed my sister’s death, my own mental health deteriorated to the extent that I tried to take my own life in 2010. In 2012 my bipolar diagnosis arrived and I started to get the help I needed. I had a relapse earlier this year, caused partly by stress and burnout from my work, and partly from coming off my medication. I was admitted to the mental health unit of my local hospital in a suicidal state, and spent three weeks there.

Suicide can be difficult to understand for anyone who hasn’t been suicidal. Like I thought at the time about my sister’s suicide, I’m sure many people consider it a selfish act. That is far from the case. Some people also think suicide is a choice- again this is wrong. I actually think suicide is often due what people perceive as a lack of choice- the person who takes their own life believes it is the only way to stop the pain.

If I ever get to that place again, I'm determined to open up

I’ll try and explain what takes a person to the point where they cannot conceive of living any more. Despite having seen at first hand the devastation wrought by the suicide of a loved one, I was at the point where I genuinely believed that everyone who knew me would be better off if I wasn’t here anymore. All insight and rationale are lost. It’s not necessarily that you wanted to die- you just don’t want to carry on living. There is just an unending blackness in your mind, which you think will never end. You became very good at hiding it, putting on a mask.

When some clarity starts to return, you can’t quite believe you nearly put everyone you love through such a horrendous ordeal. Hopefully I won’t in the future. I’m in the best place I can be at the moment, busy equipping myself with the tools to keep on top of my illness. But if I ever get to that place again, I’m determined to open up to those around me before it’s too late.

There should be no stigma in talking about suicide

I think that people are afraid of suicide because they don’t understand it- so it is vital that we demystify it, and make it so that people are not uncomfortable expressing suicidal thoughts. It doesn’t make you selfish or weak, it’s just a symptom of an illness, and like other symptoms of other illnesses there should be no stigma or shame in talking about it- indeed, it should be encouraged.

My name is Tim and I want to talk about suicide.

What do you think about Tim's blog and experiences?

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Comments

Tim's blog about suicide.

Firstly I would like to offer Tim my symathy for the loss of his sister and wish him well in living with the illness he has. I had a conversation with two of my bosses a couple of weeks ago when they said derogatory thing about people trying to take their own lives when so many people with cancer are fighting to survive. I pointed out that we fight every day to survive. That we fight just as hard but in a different way and what I said about our reasons and lack of rationale behind our thoughts was almost word for word what has been said here. They now look at suicide from a different perspective even if they don' really understand. I think instead of generic posts generated on face book more people should tell their own story. That makes it real. Wishing you well Tim x

Hi Sharon, thank you for your

Hi Sharon, thank you for your comment and your good wishes. It's great that you had that conversation and managed to change someone's point of view. That's the way that mental health stigma will eventually be defeated. Wishing you all the best. x

suicide

I very nearly succeeded in a suicide attempt many years ago, my son was 14 at the time, he is 47 now and we still have not talked about it. I have attempted many times and it just doesn't happen, our relationship I know has suffered greatly as I feel resentment from him and my guilt compounds that. I am in my 73 rd year now and still suffer from terrible depressive episodes, as I have done since my mid twenties, this has always been a taboo subject within my family, my mother thought I was just being indulgent, my husband said I was selfish and "Mad" and others just appear to skirt around the subject, like my son and daughter in law, it's most definitely the Elephant in the room, hence I don't talk about it, except with my GP who is very understanding. When as you say "the black cloud," in my case,descends I truly just want to disappeare I don't want to be here and would welcome death. What stops me is the effect on my family in particular my grandsons and son, they have no idea how hard this is to deal with and how close I have come to suicide over the years. Today I am okay, life is good today and I will make the most of it, tomorrow who knows, I don't think about it, I live by "just for today", it's the only way. Thankyou for allowing me to share this with you. Blessings.7htiNA7

thank you for your post a year ago

Hi Nina. Thank you. Thank you for your continued efforts to talk to your family despite their reluctance and thank you for sharing your experience. I hope that today you are still here, still fighting and still having as as many days where life is good, as is possible. I'm 34 but your post hit a nerve. I've been like this so long I feel I always will be but actually coming to terms with that is making life easier in a strange kind of way - and it is so reassuring to hear a fellow sufferer who has continued to fight as hard as you clearly have. You should be so proud and very I am glad to have had the opportunity, however heartbreaking, to hear your story of strength. I hope you are doing OK Nina - and thanks once again. All my love xxx

Thank you for writing this,

Thank you for writing this, Tim. As somebody who has experienced suicidal thoughts in the not-too-distant past, it's really encouraging to read your words. When I first experienced suicidal feelings, I felt, amongst other things: terrified, confused and rather ashamed of myself for even countenancing the possibility. I didn't feel able to talk to anybody else about them because I was worried I'd panic my family and hurt their feelings. Although the thoughts passed, the feelings of shame and fear remained and ate away at my self-esteem whenever my mood dipped. This quasi-cycle repeated itself numerous times; while experiencing the thoughts became a little less terrifying to me over time, the confusion and shame I felt only ever deepened. Now, when I experience suicidal thoughts, I am relieved to say that I don't feel the shame I once did. It was actually through reading a book (Shoot the Damn Dog by Sally Brampton) that helped reconfigure my view and helped me drop enough of the shame so that I could blurt out my feelings (after a couple of tries!). I find it hard to express the degree of relief that I felt when I saw someone else talking about what I'd felt; immediately my feelings of isolation and shame began to rescind. Brampton's frankness when she spoke about suicidal ideation and the fact that she spoke of it in the context of being symptomatic of an illness, just like chest pains or itchiness, changed how I thought about them and made me more able to share with others. It helped me to realise that suicidal thoughts are symptomatic of a brain befuddled & bewitched by an illness and not a character trait. I've made a lot of progress in speaking out about my feelings. I'm finding that it's very much an ongoing process and speaking out does not come naturally. Reading things like this helps to inspire me to do it more though, so thank you!

Hi Richard, thanks for your

Hi Richard, thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear about your struggles, but glad you're doing better. I bought a copy of 'Shoot The Damn Dog' on your recommendation, and I have to say I thought it was excellent. An awful lot of parallels with my experiences, only more eloquently put! Suicidal feelings are just a symptom of the illness, nothing more. Well done on having the courage to speak out- it's hard as I know, but my life did improve hugely from the point I opened up to people. All the best, Tim.

I`ve known a number of people

I`ve known a number of people, all men, who have taken their own lives. I don`t agree that it is "taking the easy way out".I know Tim wasn`t suggesting that. But it tends be a dubious piece of accepted wisdom. Suicide is by definition, the last resort. It is the logical response of someone who can see no way forward in rebuilding their life. The problems are only going to get bigger - and go on forever. We do indeed need to talk about suicide, especially in schools & colleges. But we need to talk about it without adding to the pain of those who maybe contemplating it

Tims Blog

Hi Tim, I was really touched by your extremely personal blog. I too lost my youngest sister to suicide on December 1st but I knew she had to do it because she couldn't carry on any longer. She was only 39, & had Huntingdons. I was really shocked by the lack of support I received from my family. I believe if she had died due to illness of the physical kind, the support would have been there, but as it was down to her mental health & she took her own life aswell, people did not know what to say, so they say nothing.... Leaving me to grieve on my own.

How refreshing

Wish this blog had been around when my son commited suicide. No one talks of him and my mother to this day considers him selfish. Much love. Keep fighting for mental health issues x

I understand the above

After reading this blog I understand all to well as 3 weeks ago I myself suffered attempt to kill myself due to having no polar. However everyone thought I was being selfish when in fact I could no longer cope as the service and care I got was awful all because it was a mental health illness they looked at me as if I was weird and that I was clogging the system up for people who where normal. Mental health is still such a dark area and has a long way to go before all people with a mental health illness shall be accepted. My advice would be always stay strong no matter what we are all unquie and wonderful in our own way and one day sociaity will accept us.

Suicide

Its always good to see someone talk about their own experiences. I lost my husband to suicide ten years ago. My oldest friend who had also contemplated suicide, explained that it was a feeling of having no option not a choice. I still try to explain to my children why it happened but as you say, not enough people talk about it so they have no references to draw from. I also struggle at times especially when tired, to not get angry or frustrated with what I was left to cope with and so at times it is difficult to grieve 'simply'. A friend of mine recently lost her own husband to cancer and we have been able to talk about feelings and 'what comes next' etc. Still it seems unfair that she had an 'explainable' tragedy where as I am still 10 years on, trying to justify what happened to people who know nothing about mental health illness. I can see quite clearly that I didn't get the support that my friend got, far from it. My best friend at the time could not face me, ever again. My family, even now rarely talk about it, there was no celebration of his life, no guilt free mourning and I so resent that. Unfortunately, my oldest friend saw what had happened to my family following the suicide yet still it didn't stop her doing exactly the same 7 months later and at times I remain angry with her as well. So everyone affected by suicide holds on to issues. My most difficult one, is to persuade my son that whilst his father and grandfather killed themselves, that he won't.

suicide

I agree the subject of suicide is the elephant in the room and that it is not a selfish act. In addition to saying we should encourage talking about it - we need to encourage listening about it...too often no one actually wants to hear about it...

mental illness

Its nearly ruined my life depression. I wud love to tell my story and the way the benifit system has esculated my depression. I'm a fighter and I'm fighting back. Ppl wud never know I've suffered with depression. I've hidden away but I've wrote down my triggers and I'm now beginning to pul thru the other side.x

Tims blog

Interesting to read and he does describe his feelings very well as I can relate to them. I have suffered depression for many years and tried to commit suicide at 13 after my father died and I was placed in care luckily I was found and taken to hospital. I married at 17 when I became pregnant and ended up in a nightmare of my husband being jealous and abusive both physically and mentally. We divorced when I was 20 and shortly before the divorce came through I had my second child,a son. My ex had left the marital home taking my daughter with him and the court gave custody to his mother and father with whom he was living I very rarely got to see her and lived alone with my son. A while later my ex committed suicide. I tried to get on with life but had a few failed relationships and still battled depression. When I was 30 I met an ex boyfriend and we are still together now, we lived together for a good few years and married 9 years ago after a 13 year engagement,my depression caused a few bad times for us but luckily my husband has supported me through them all, these have included the death of my mother,the suicide of my son at 21,the suicide of a friends son,the suicide of one of my sons close friends,the death of my foster brother to whom I was very close and having vulval cancer which was luckily spotted and treated in time ( it was shortly after this that my son committed suicide) all these things and more have made my depression worse but the doctors and therapists I have seen seem to not want to know about any of these things and don't think they are connected to my depression I don't think they understand that once the black cloak is around you it totally envelops you and it cannot just be shaken off! Events may not have caused the depression but they push you further into it,anti depressants have helped me a bit but not totally its still small things that can trigger it and a lot of times I just don't want to get out of bed as I feel safe there. I think I have said more here than I have ever said to anyone thank you for this article and hope it helps others to open their hearts a bit!

Suicide

Hi Tim; Just to say I know how you feel. I was in that Black place in 2006 and tried to take my own life. I spend 3 months in a secure unit. I am now stronger, but still have black days. I go for walks or a spin in my little car. God bless you Tim and all others that have been there.

suicide.

Tim's story invites all to reflect. I have a personal recollection of the subject, having attempted suicide and nearly succeeded. I have borderline and, due to a serie of dramatic and sudden circumstances in my life, I had a serious relapse. In the wreckages of my life, I vegetated, utterly unable to steer myself out of troubled water. I felt powerless to stop the existential pain. Once I took the decision and acted out, I felt in control of my life again. I woke up stripped naked and empty, alone in a hospital ward and I cried angry tears over my failure. To me, it was a bitter joke that I had failed even on that circumstance. However profound was my sorrow, it was nothing when compared to that experienced by my children, whom were devasted by my gesture. Ironically, my intention was born out of love for them: I genuinely thought they would be better off without a mam like me. I was wrong and I truly understood the importance of my role in their upbringing. After a long time, I came back around to the same life, the same street and I bore the stigma of suicide on my bare skin. My neighbors and my extended family called me selfish without attempting to appreciate the events that brought me to my knees and how they intertwined with the borderline mind. The most hurtful was my ex husband, who filed a case to take the children away from me when I needed their love to give a sense to my living. Had he succeded, I would not being around today to recall my story. Their love and support was pivotal in my chances of survival. After years of therapy and medications, I am today in a better place: like any other borderline, I have good days alternated to periods of depression. I have learnt to live each day as it comes. I know that even the darkest of times will come to pass if I endure it. I simply choose to live. There cannot be a clear understand of suicide: it escapes a sound mind. In many cases, it is born out of desperation, hopelessness and isolation. It should be valued like many other issues in life of which, perhaps, we cannot make sense of it but, ultimately, we come to accept in order to carry on living.

hi

hey im Michael and I.recently made an attempt to take my own life and was successful....until I was brought back...when I.woke in the ward, groggy and in.pain I grabbed a pen from the nurse and started slashing my body apart...I was horrified that i was still alive. I was hospitalized for numerous weeks and was let out.with a care package and a cpn 3 weeks ago. I have came off my meds and started abusing drink.and drugs.and distanced myself from my.family. suicide is always in my head....always....ita my way of controlling a situation. "oh im feeling.very upset and emotional while driving I could always crash or jump" im aware im a mess right now and.im not planning.on making another attempt on my life at the.present but I feel so alone.....I spoke to someone with.bipolar who said they.understand how I feel....this really annoyed me because what im feeling isolates me.so much I.feel that alone so how can some one get how I.feel sorry this ended up as a bit of therpy session for me

How to talk about Suicide?

Firstly, I would like to say that I'm sorry for your loss Tim, and I wish you the best for the future. For the past year, I had been contemplating suicide. This was partly because a relative of mine, a cousin, took her life during the summer. She was seventeen; only a couple of years younger than me. The pain that we all felt at her loss has really shaken my family, and initially I had thought that this sadness would dissuade me from feeling suicidal forever. But I was wrong. That September, I started University, and eventually dropped out because I disliked the course. I also began to feel suicidal, due to my cousin's death and other factors. I began to create a plan, but I was afraid. It was exactly like in this blog: I didn't actually want to die, but I thought I somehow deserved to because I felt so terrible about myself and like such a failure. This was perhaps two weeks before I am writing this. Eventually, I told a close relative. They were devastated to find out what I had been feeling, but were also really helpful. Telling her meant that I switched to a medication that worked better for me, and she helped me make positive steps to the future. This was my experience. The thing is, I don't understand how to reach out to a wider audience about the subject of suicide. It feels like such a taboo, and even though in my experience so far I have been helped, I know that it isn't so easy for some people. I want to know how to help people and make the subject less frightening for discussion. I feel that by sharing my feelings I can maybe help, but I don't know how much. Any ideas? Best wishes Tim x

Understanding Suicide

UNDERSTANDING SUICIDE On July 31, 2009, I watched the Dr. Phil Show. The topic of discussion that day was suicide. Dr. Phil mentioned that the need to commit suicide was temporary and will pass. This may be the case for some; those that had suicidal thoughts because of an event such as loss of a job or relationship break up. But there are those for whom thoughts of suicide are always lingering in the back of their mind. I believe suicide is a disease, a mental illness and like any other disease some people are more susceptible to it than others. One of the main causes of disease is stress. Each person handles stress in their own unique way. Some suffer headaches, stomach cramps or high blood pressure. Others develop negative voices in their mind. They become angry and frustrated with their life. The negative voices tell them that if they were a good person good things would happen to them. They don’t believe they deserve good things to happen to them. They have high expectations and ideals of themselves and others and feel the world has let them down. They are highly sensitive to the pain and suffering around them and in the world. They feel responsible and want to help but don’t feel worthy of offering help fearing rejection or maybe they’ll make things worse. They feel completely alone, different not able to fit in with the world. Even if something good happens they don’t feel worthy to receive it and are sure there is someone more deserving of it. They tend to put on brave faces; can be the life of the party. They are compassionate and concerned for others wellbeing. To survive they need to learn to love and accept themselves. No one can do this for them. To love themselves is the only way to conquer and dissipate the negative voices. If the negative voices are strong they can convince the person they are better off dead as no one cares about them or will even miss them once they are gone. Learning to love themselves and overcome the negative voices is a difficult painful journey. It requires a deep inner strength, honesty and courage to shine a light on the darkness and peel back the layers to discover where all the negative talk originated. This is a long slow process that requires the belief that your life is worth the journey. There is not a right or wrong way to do this. Each person’s recovery will be their own unique journey. What works for one won’t necessarily work for another. It’s a process of discovery one step at a time.

Suicide

Dear Tim, Thank you so much for writing this blog as I fully agree with you on many points. Firstly I'm so sorry that your sister took her own life and what a terrible tragedy this must have been for you and all your family. I too have attempted suicide several times over the past 8 years, the first attempt led to me being admited to hospital for more than 6 months. I was then diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. I agree that people need to talk about suicide more and not be afraid to admit to having thoughts of it. Even though I have a loving husband and 3 wonderful children I still have days where just getting out of bed seems an epic task. For people to constantly say that suicide is a selfish thing and a 'cop-out on dealing with life' is highly unhelpful. I'm grateful to have found your blog and wish you well with the daily struggle of living with bi-polar. Thank you

Attention to Suicide

Thank you for placing focus on the importance of recognizing suicide and thoughts of them while in a bipolar episode. I am 32 and was diagnosed at 23. I have been hospitalized during breakdowns and to be honest I am in an episode right now and have been for a few months. I take medication and therapy but things take time. In the mean time, especially at night thoughts of suicide creep in. In that time I call my mom or a friend to help me change focus for a minute and it helps. For me it is not the sadness or thought of suicide at this time, but that one day the struggle will be too much and I will be to exhausted to carry this disease. For me suicide now is not my fear, it is it having beaten me in the next 5 to 10 years. That is where hope starts to flutter away.I only now have begun to tell anyone about my disease because I was so ashamed and guilty, this is my first time writing about it, let alone reading blogs or articles. Thanks for sharing your story. - Kimberly

...

Thank you.... I do not feel so alone. I found it comforting to read that these thoughts I have are not mine alone. I do wish I could make the darkness go away... I've struggled with suicidal thoughts basically my whole life. I know I could never actually go through with it, I have never once attempted... but it is still a daily struggle. I do find it extremely hard to open up about this. I do not have understanding family or friends in my life. I have come to terms that I will probably just have to continue this struggle and keep fighting. I want to beat this illness. I would give anything for it to go away. I want to enjoy life, I don't know at all what that feels like. I've always hidden my illness behind closed doors. Missing out on so much that I can never get back. I want the hope that maybe this black hole I am drowning in will finally go away!

Suicide

For the last 2 years I have felt very suicidal. Only my husband knows how I have fought not to be completely overtaken. He's very recently been diagnosed with cancer. We have 3 wonderful children. If the worst happens, I'll be gone. Most medics tell you to ping a rubber band to distract myself. Have they any conception of what goes on in a mind where suicide is the only option? Where your certainty that those you leave behind will be so much better off is real? I lost my cousin to suicide - she had no option. Without my one avenue of understanding, I'm gone. My husband has had limited support from those we thought were close to us since learning of his cancer. You'll know how much less support there'll be for a mental illness. What do we hear? Oh, we've been busy! We'd drop everything to help someone devastated by illness or death. Is that because we've been there? I have no idea. We sat together the other night and said, "You know, it's just us". Scared, shocked, patronised. If you haven't experienced it, let us tell you, it's hell. One couple, who have had a very difficult year, have hugged us. Hell mend anyone who might disrupt the smooth running of others' plans. Our kids? They don't need to be warped by my continued presence if their adored Dad has the worst. May God forgive me, and may He lead my children to healthier lives. A shattered, gutted human being. i

Support

Hi Barbara, I'm really sad to hear that you're going through all of that. It must be incredibly hard, and I'm sorry it sounds like you aren't getting the support you deserve. We have some links on our site that might help: http://bit.ly/1SzXo4B. But please speak with your GP, and if you're feeling that you might be actively suicidal please go to A&E where they can look after you. Wishing you and your family all the very best. Take care of yourself, Tim at Time to Change

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