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  • Writer's pictureDawn Ford

"Therapy - I needed to put my childhood demons to bed".

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

Every life matters: The Orange Button Scheme - originated in Lancashire & in South Cumbria in 2020 and was such a success that is has been taken up with many other counties nationwide and is now available in Herefordshire and Worcestershire too. Its aim is to identify people who have received suicide prevention training and who have the confidence to talk to others about suicide: It's about breaking down the stigma around the word suicide. Those who participate in this community scheme need to be: comfortable to say/hear the word suicide, listen without judgement and be able to signpost people to help and support.

I attended a Suicide Prevention Workshop back in January 2020, which was delivered by Gloucestershire Suicide Prevention Partnership and I was amazed by the many myths that are still largely believed in our society (see below). I incorrectly thought that suicide was regarded as a crime up until the 1980s but in fact it was much earlier - in 1961.

The Suicide Act 1961 decriminalized suicide; which means as it is no longer a crime; it is no longer acceptable to say committed suicide. This is a fundamental and profound change. It should help to reduce the stigma - I hope so, because suicide is still treated or regarded as Taboo in our society and that in itself is a problem.

Those who are bereaved by suicide often feel an outsider in their grief, which is extremely isolating. Many bereaved by suicide may have more 'what ifs' and 'if onlys' than others who are bereaved - and this unknown 'why?' can compound their grief.

It is estimated that around the globe a heart-breaking 703,000 people/year take their own life. Suicide is the biggest cause of death in men under the age of 50 in the UK and 75% of all suicide deaths are men.

I have supported several clients (mainly men) who were suicidal, and in every case their emotional/mental decline followed one or more losses: such as a close bereavement, a relationship breakup, divorce, job loss, etc. In some cases a significant disconnection from family existed in their childhood.

Going back and revisiting 'buried or denied' feelings from past years enabled them to make 'sense' of their emotions, their triggers, their behaviour. But it so important to say that there are those who despite support or medication still wish not to be here and tragically they do go on to die by suicide. Suicide Prevention training, therapy and other means of support can make a difference and they can save lives, but there will always be those who really do not want to live. This is such a devastatingly hard truth to comprehend and maybe accept - the hardest most painful reality.

Some of the myths we discussed back in 2020

Myth: You can’t ask someone if they’re suicidal

Fact: Asking someone if they’re suicidal could protect them. Asking someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts can give them permission to tell you how they feel and let them know they are not a burden.

Myth: People who talk about suicide aren't serious and won't go through with it.

Fact: People who die by suicide have often told someone that they do not feel life is worth living or that they have no future. Some may have actually said they want to die.

It's possible that someone might talk about suicide as a way of getting attention, in the sense of calling out for help. It’s important to always take someone seriously if they talk about feeling suicidal.

The majority of people who feel suicidal do not actually want to die - they just want the situation they’re in or the way they’re feeling to stop. It's why talking through other options at the right time is so vital.

Myth: If a person is serious about killing themselves then there's nothing you can do.

Fact: Often, feeling actively suicidal is temporary, even if someone has been feeling low, anxious or struggling to cope for a long period of time. Getting the right kind of support at the right time is so important. In a situation where someone is having suicidal thoughts, be patient, stay with them and just let them know you're there. Remember, if you think it's an emergency or someone had tried to harm themselves- call 999

Myth: Talking about suicide is a bad idea as it may give someone the idea to try it.

Fact: Often, people who are feeling suicidal don’t want to worry or burden anyone with how they feel and so they don’t discuss it. But, by asking someone directly about suicide, you give them permission to tell you how they feel. People who are struggling or have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it was to be able to talk about what they were experiencing.

Evidence shows asking someone if they're suicidal can protect them. They feel listened to, and hopefully less trapped. Their feelings are validated, and they know that somebody cares about them. Reaching out can save a life.

Myths around suicide: credit: Rory O'Connor, Professor of Health Psychology at Glasgow University

Today we have many various Mental Health diagnosis - medical labels that are given to us when we're struggling, the most common being depression and anxiety. Others such as ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or BPD - Borderline Personality Disorder also exist. I am currently supporting a young lady who has been diagnosed with BPD and has suicidal thoughts regularly.

We are in the early days of her support and I can see her diagnosis fits the symptoms of BPD: including - emotional instability and intense but unstable relationships with others. However underneath her latest diagnosis, I believe lies the fundamental core issue; the heart - her behaviour is due to her emotions, the way in which she feels disconnected, unloved, hopeless, lost, useless, unworthy, ashamed, and a burden. She is grieving a stable and loving childhood - " I felt like pass the parcel". Many of these feelings are long standing, at least 15 years - thankfully she is now recognising her connection between then and now for herself.

free on 116 123, anytime of the day or ht.

On a personal level my family has been affected by suicide and the scars go deep. Professionally as a Loss & Wellbeing Specialist I have met people who were struggling and who previously felt suicidal. I have several close friends who have been effected by suicide too - so many have, too many.

Why talk about it? The more we share with others about feeling suicidal, the more acceptable talking about our 'struggles' becomes - when we don't talk, we keep it inside, it becomes a secret, or something we feel ashamed of. Many who feel suicidal feel a burden and don't wish to worry others, but if we think they're struggling and may be suicidal we do need to ask them directly. The lady I spoke with last week with BPD said she felt 'lighter' and was relieved to share how she really felt, she felt 'safe' to be herself and talk. She is still on her medication, which I completely agree with, especially at this 'heightened' time and I recommend her to continue seeing MH professionals too. It's no quick fix, there isn't one. But starting with a trusted support resource is a good place to start.

To conclude - Talking about how we feel really can make a difference. Asking Are you Ok? Are you Really OK? Are you suicidal? enables a discussion to take place - an invite for them to share their emotions, their concerns. But we do need to really listen - 100% listen, we need to be non-judgemental and compassionate too. I truly believe vulnerability is courage - and this exact sentiment was echoed by James Arthur's superb, honest and moving BBC 1 documentary last night (9th January 2023)Out of Our Minds, which I fully recommend."Therapy - I needed to put my childhood demons to bed".

I also wish to add that going forward we need more joined up thinking - GPs, Mental Health professionals and therapists - we need a multi-prong approach, if we are to get the help to those who need it. If we are to make a difference.

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