So, everything is going well; great house, wonderful family, amazing friends, a good job, what could go wrong? For someone suffering from depression, this isn’t enough to convince the black dog that plagues the mind. The point being whether you are down on your luck or high flying in life, mental illness does not discriminate. The recent deaths of musicians Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington have sparked debate mainly amongst the Internet. The amount of comments stating that it was a selfish thing to die of suicide proves that more awareness and education is still needed when speaking about this.
As quoted on the NHS website; suicide is the act of intentionally ending your life, many people feel so overwhelmed with negative feelings that they feel they have no option. According to a survey taken by MIND The Mental Health Charity; 20.6 in 100 people have had suicidal thoughts and 6.7 in 100 people have attempted suicide. Mental Health Network states on their fact sheet that the report states “Patients suicides in the UK have become more common since 2009.” From reports like this, it shows those suffering from mental health issues, suicide attempts and thoughts are more common then we initially think.
Having experienced suicidal thoughts myself, I know exactly how isolating it can feel. The key thing a mental illness does is make you feel alone, that you can’t reach out to anyone. No matter what I did, I couldn’t escape the negative thoughts that were plaguing the mind daily. Previously I wasn’t great at opening about how I was really feeling about things, often disguising it as normal day to day problems. I never wanted to burden anyone or bother my family and friends. So, it wasn’t a surprise when they would just say ‘That’s life’. From those notions, I concluded that, ‘if we’re here to just be miserable, then what is the point?’ Luckily, I was able to speak up about what was really going on and get the help I desperately needed. It’s almost been two years and even though I feel a lot better and not had a thought like it for a long time, there are still off days regarding my mental illness. It doesn’t go away completely. From this experience, I found that negative feelings and thoughts can be powerful enough to isolate the individual to the point of where they feel they can’t ask for help. To the point where they make their minds up and die of suicide because they personally feel the world would be a better place without them.
So, what are people doing to help raise awareness? Mental Health Charities such as MIND, Mental Health Network and Change are creating awareness by providing information of where to get help and encouraging those to speak out. Disabilities and Illness Website The Mighty are encouraging those to share their stories on how their mental illness effects their day to day lives, tips on coping mechanisms on how to cope on bad days and provides articles with signs to look out for to find out if someone is suffering from a mental illness. Often a lot of those are contributed by readers and contributors.
Where most of us shave our heads to raise funds for cancer, musician Oli Böhm is doing that to raise funds for Papyrus – Suicide Prevention in Young People.
“The shorts answer is: I’m raising money for Papyrus – suicide prevention in young people. Firstly, by offering to shave my hair off! I’m also donating the hair to charity so it can be made into a wig for someone who lost their hair due to cancer treatments. I’ll also hopefully be working on a couple more awareness/fundraising projects within the metal community which I’m looking forward to being able to share more about hopefully soon.” Oli states. “I decided I wanted to do some kind of awareness and fundraising after I heard about the loss of Soundgarden's Chris Cornell.”
If you wish to sponsor Oli with this endeavour, here is the link to his JustGiving Page. - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/isarnos-olli
The Parent’s Association for the Prevention of Young Suicide (shortened to PAPYRUS) are dedicated to preventing young suicides in the UK. It was founded in 1997 by mother Jean Kerr following the death of her son to suicide. Other parents who were bereaved by suicide gradually joined the charity as they began to believe that something positive could come out of their own tragedy. Since then they have remained dedicated to offering support to young people at risk and those who are concerned for their wellbeing.
“The main thing Papyrus offer is the HOPEline service, telephone, email and post*. This is for anyone to call if they are feeling really bad or are concerned about the wellbeing of another young person.” Oli says. “They also do a lot of campaigning (note: not just fundraising) for situations like trying to influence public policy that could positively or negatively impact the wellbeing of young people and are on various boards, thinktanks, etc around suicide prevention and young people’s wellbeing. They’re also members of the national suicide prevention alliance, which is a working group involving multiple charities, health organisations and voluntary groups who work across all demographic groups with the aim of improving mental wellbeing.”
A particular event that is run every year is their HopeWalk; it takes place between 7th – 15th October and this is where you can organise a walk in your local community in order to start conversation about suicide and raise those funds to keep their vital services going. Here is a video from one of their walks in 2015 and more information on how to take part can be found on their website.
Seeing charities like this thriving, there is still more that needs to be done to help people talk more openly about the subject since it’s still considered taboo and like mental health, still contains an ugly stigma. “Something I had read previously goes something like – ‘When someone dies of Cancer, we blame Cancer. We don't blame the victim's body for giving up the fight. So why do we blame the victim for giving up the fight against depression?’” Oli states. “There needs to be a whole perceptual shift in how people approach mental wellbeing and that comes from education, openness and support networks between companies, organisations, social groups.”
If you are reading this and you are feeling suicidal or struggling to cope with day to day life it’s important to remember you are not alone, your feelings/struggles are valid and you do matter. If you can, reach out and talk to someone; you are not a burden, there are people out there who are willing to help you. Details of various websites and hotlines can be found below if you wish to reach out.
PAPYRUS - https://www.papyrus-uk.org
HOPELineUK Phone Number: 0800 068 41 41
SMS: 07786 209697
Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/
Phone: 116 123
Post: RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA
MIND - https://www.mind.org.uk/
Phone: 02085 192122