It’s ok to talk about suicide. Suicide is not the solution.
CW discussion of suicide
Feeling suicidal is terrifying and if you have these thoughts please call the crisis line or someone you trust.
This is a difficult post to write, but it shouldn’t be. September is suicide awareness/prevention month. Really every day should be suicide prevention. For some reason, suicide continues to be a stigmatised, taboo subject.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people aged 10-35. Yet it’s not talked about. Not nearly enough. 90% of people who die by suicide have suffered mental health symptoms. Marginalised communities have a 4-12x risk compared with the general population.
Anorexia is the most fatal of all mental health diagnoses, 1 in 5 anorexia deaths are from suicide. 27 people die everyday globally from eating disorders. Suicide is a large proportion of these. It shouldn’t be and doesn’t need to be.
We need to make society a safer place if we are going to reduce these stats, it starts with talking and normalising mental health.
When I was deepest in my eating disorder, I was haunted by thoughts of escaping, but this was not something I ever admitted, voiced. I was even asked many times by my team if I was depressed or had suicidal thoughts. The truth is, I wasn’t depressed, I felt hopeless, like there was never going to be anything else. The idea of living another day in this never-ending self-loathing, food obsessed brain was sometimes overwhelming. I used to say over and over in my mind- I wish I was dead. In those moments I believed it, I meant it.
The reason I want to share this, there were many times I felt like this when I was trapped in the ED. I felt so much shame for having these thoughts, I grew up in an environment that didn’t believe in mental health, I grew up believing suicide was selfish, cowardly or attention seeking. That’s so far from the truth.
Isolation was the worst part. I can hand on my heart say, it is none of the above. Suicide is a permanent solution to what I feel is a temporary problem and preventable with support.
Eating disorders are incredibly isolating. Not feeling I could talk about this added to the shame and perpetual cycle. We often ask people “are you okay, how are you” but it’s an empty question. We don’t ask people how they really are, because as a society we are afraid of how to respond if someone was to really answer. Personally, I wouldn’t have wanted someone to have the answers. You can ask someone how they really are and not have to have the solution. You can offer support in many ways. Listening, not judging a person, advising they get professional help, letting them know their feelings are valid (even if you don’t truly understand). One of the biggest things is not perpetuate the rhetoric that suicide is selfish, cowardly or a choice. People who feel suicidal may be experiencing feelings of not wanting to be a burden, isolation, guilt. People who are feeling suicidal are living with pain and so many other horrible emotions. It is not selfish and making someone feel guilty or selfish is only going to fuel anguish and isolation. People are more likely to withdraw and not get the help they desperately NEED AND DESERVE. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom and can be treated with help.
Raising mental health awareness, particularly in the healthcare profession is something I feel very strongly about. Healthcare professionals have higher rates than the general population of suicide. Female doctors are 2-4x at risk of ending their lives than the general population. It doesn’t surprise me, but it deeply saddens me. The medical profession is one of the worst for stigmatising mental health. It’s not a safe place to openly talk about mental health. Not seeking help for our own mental health is a huge risk factor, that’s without all the other issues including making life or death decisions, giving up a large part of our own lives for the career and the fear of complaints. It’s not really surprising, is it?
Today, I started the first day of annual leave. Ben and I went for “afternoon tea” and as I sat there laughing at some of his silly jokes and we tasted the tiers, I felt grateful. I was so thankful that I could be sat here, laughing, and eating with ever increasing freedom. Not being trapped in an endless cycle of shame and torment. I would have called you a liar if you had have told me 12 months ago, I would be sat, relaxed and most of all HAPPY. I felt the happiest I have felt in, a long time. I’m so thankful to be alive, but I almost wasn’t. I never imagined this life for myself.
I don’t know why I am here and others are not so lucky. But I know this, I’m not prepared to continue the narrative that suicide is selfish, that mental health is not as important as physical health. Truly if mental health has the possibility to take a life, it’s about as serious as it can get and needs to be treated as such.
How can you recognise someone may be feeling suicidal?
Perhaps there will be no signs, but if you don’t ask someone how they are and mean it, it could be easy to miss.
- Isolation, withdrawing
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness, being a burden
- Talking about death, other self-harming behaviours
- Speaking negatively about themselves
- Talking about suicide
- Getting affairs in order, giving belongings away etc
- Access to means to harm oneself
- Mood changes
- Turning to substance abuse/ alcohol as a way of coping with feelings
- Drastic weight changes
- Appearing to have lost interest in things they would typically enjoy or life
- A sudden sense of calm, or appearing calm
- Ceasing regular medications
Risk factors for suicide;
- Prior history of suicide attempt/ self harm
- Depression, anxiety any mental health problem.
- Alcohol, substance dependence
- Physical illness/ disability
- Knowing someone who has died from suicide
- Subject of violence
- Loss of self identity- loss of job, sexuality
- Major life events
- Relationship breakdown
- Financial worries
What can we do?
- Making access to help easy, without stigma or judgement
- Don’t be afraid to ask someone, ask them how they are feeling in a safe space. It’s ok to ask about feeling suicidal. Let them know many people experience feeling suicidal and they’re not alone.
- If someone trusts you enough to confide in you, acknowledge this. “I’m glad you are telling me, you can tell me anything” “I am here”
- Be prepared to listen even if it’s difficult to hear and upsets you.
- Talking about suicide does not cause suicide but it may help prevent it.
- Listen to someone struggling. Don’t judge them, even if you disagree. Don’t attempt to fix their problems or dismiss them.
- Help someone find professional help, charities, organisations
- Small acts of kindness “saying hello to a stranger” you never know a simple hello may make someone feel noticed, loved.
- Actively seek help from mental health services for the person- call emergency services or crisis line if someone is clearly in danger.
- Offer them support by asking open questions like “you don’t seem your usual self, is there anything you want to talk about? Tell the person you’re concerned about them
If you are reading this and you can relate, are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you ARE NOT ALONE and YOU DESERVE TO LIVE. Please get help now.
It’s okay to talk about suicide. Start the narrative.
- Emergency 111 NZ, 911 US, 999 UK
- Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800543354
- Suicide Crisis helpline NZ: 0508828865
- Samaritans https://samaritanshope.org/
- MIND: https://www.mind.org.uk/
- EDANZ https://www.healthpoint.co.nz/mental-health-addictions/mental-health-addictions/eating-disorders-association-of-new-zealand/
- BEAT- UK: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/get-information-and-support/get-help-for-myself/i-need-support-now/helplines/
- Laura Hyde foundation (mental health resources doe healthcare workers): https://laurahydefoundation.org/getting-help-1
- You OKAY DOC: https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/organisation/you-okay-doc/
**these are my own experiences and are not professional/ medical opinion*