September 10th is national suicide awareness day and I want to take a moment to address it and talk about it with you guys as it is something that has affected my life in many ways over the years.
Firstly I myself am a suicide survivor. Possibly one of the only things in life I've put my mind to and failed at, thankfully!! Though in retrospect I don't think for one minute I wanted to die, more I wanted to be heard. I do not like using the term "cry for help" because I think physically having to say to somebody "help" is bollocks, there are so many ways people could be asking you for help without saying it but a lot of us are ignorant or oblivious to them. I'll give you an example...
My Grandad Arthur (One of the only men I've ever fully trusted- I will talk more about him in another blog one day I promise) was widowed in November 2009 after spending over 50 years with his childhood sweetheart, his soulmate. He adored my nana and felt like she'd "saved" him, she gave him purpose. When she passed away he lost his best friend and he was incredibly lonely, heartbreakingly so at times. I carry a lot of guilt about this, I feel as a family we could of supported him better, a select few of us did our best, myself included, I would try to visit him a couple of times a week, either alone of with the tribe. Towards the end of his life he was in and out of hospital A LOT and it was quite difficult to go visit often because he was either in Colwyn Bay or Denbigh hospital which we visited a few times and he told me he'd had a mole removed off his chest and that he had cancer, it didn't really make sense so I told him not to be daft and wait for the results as I'm sure it was nothing to worry about, his last stay in a hospital was January 2016 and I had gone to visit him, we spoke and I sat by his bed and held his hand, he told me he was coming home tomorrow and if he gave me the spare key, could I meet him at his flat and help tidy it a bit as he hadn't been home in a few weeks and things needed a quick clean and he needed his washing doing etc, so obviously I agreed, took the spare key and met him at his flat at the agreed time 17:00.
When I got there he was already there and had been helped in by the ambulance staff, he told me he'd been worried I wasn't able to make it, so I told him to stop being daft, I said I'd be here and here I am. I popped the kettle on and made us both a brew before tackling the massive pile of letters and paperwork that had gathered during his stay in hospital, telling him what each one was and asking him "bin it or keep it?" He kept telling me to stop and just sit down but me being me I wanted to get the place sorted for him so it was tidy, uncluttered and more homely. After a bit he asked would I go to the chippy for him and get him some fish and chips and get myself something too, so off I went to trawlers in town and brought him his tea back, I didn't get myself anything because it was January and I was still high on new years resolutions and bloody dieting haha He kept saying are you sure you don't want any chips? Come and sit with me and have some. I kept insisting I was fine and if I ate one it'd honestly all go to my arse. Once I had cleared as much clutter as I could and put all his washing in the basket ready for wash I sat next to him on the arm of his arm chair and put my arm round him, he put his hand on my lap and held my hand. He turned and said to me "I miss this you know, ever since your nana went, there's nobody to hold of an evening, nobody to talk to, just me and the tv. I just miss a hug, the warm, the company". Honestly felt my heart breaking for him at that moment.
As we were sat there, the phone rang, caller ID shown it was my boyfriends number, at the time ringing and my grandad looked at me and said you're going to have to go love, it's getting late and you know what he's like, you'll get it in the neck. So I gave him one last squeeze and told him I loved him and that I'd try and get his washing to him in the morning. He told me he was in no rush for it so not to worry and he loves me too. The next morning after dropping the kids off at school, I went home to sort grandads washing before going to see him and I got a phone call from my cousin, the first thing she said to me was "are you ok?" which baffled me a bit and I laughed and replied I was and what's the matter? It was at that moment she told me grandads gone....... And it hit like a ton of bricks. Gone. I didn't really understand what was happening, I remember my boyfriend at the time coming home from work but my head was everywhere and I didn't know what to do, without really taking time to think about it I grabbed my spare key and phone and drove to grandads, I presumed family were going to be there etc and let myself in. It is something that will stay with me for life. There was no family there, the first thing I noticed is that it was quiet, scarily quiet. Grandad had COPD and was on oxygen 24/7 otherwise he'd slowly suffocate, but his oxygen machine was turned off and his tubes were left on the little table in front of his chair where we'd been sat the night before. And grandad was by his bed, gone. I sat on the floor next to him and hugged him and held his hand. I'd known grief before but this was different, I adored my grandad, he had been my rock many a time and was more like a dad to me and he always said I was like a daughter to him.
The days and weeks went by and bit by bit the pieces slowly started to come together and make sense. He did have cancer, it was lung cancer, asbestos related if I remember rightly. That day he came out of hospital... he'd discharged himself as he wanted to be at home and he'd only told me, he had asked me to meet him at home as he wanted to spend that last night with me, like he knew. Why me? I presume he'd gone to bed without putting his oxygen on, knowing what would happen. All the time he was telling me to leave the tidying, forget the mess, come and sit with him, eat some chips with him, just stop and be with him. They were his ways of saying help, just be there, be present, spend that time with him before he has to go. And I didn't, yes I was there but was I present, was I balls, I was too worried trying to tidy the flat for him. God I wish I'd of sat with him longer, nicked his chips and ate with him so he didn't have to sit there and eat alone while I cleaned. It eats at me that guilt. I'm not openly saying he committed suicide as I have no proof, there was no letters, my grandad was a bloody strong bright man and I feel it in my heart that he was ready to go but wanted to go on his own terms and knowingly left his oxygen on that table. I just wish I'd of listened, really listened you know but I was ignorant/oblivious. I still have his washing to this day, unwashed, stored away in a suitcase and every now and then when I'm missing him I'll open the suitcase and just smell, and it smells of grandad. Strange the things you miss.
A 77 year old man. A wonderful man. Gone. Could I of changed his mind? Could I of made a difference if I knew? Could eating them damn chips and spending that time connecting with him changed his mind?? I'll never bloody know. But so many people do ask for "help" in various ways I feel before they get to the point of say giving up, I focking hate to say that but I'm telling you it's not giving up, they must of fought so hard, for so long before it got to that point for them and I think it's bravery to of kept fighting. I personally tried to commit suicide when I was 14/15 because I was desperate to be heard, I couldn't make sense of what had happened to me, could no longer get the answers I required and felt like I couldn't tell anybody why I was struggling as I was terrified nobody would believe me. So I took as many pills as I could find and went to bed to go to sleep with the full intent of not waking up. But your body fights, fights the toxins in your system and fights to survive, I woke up chocking on my own vomit and the noise woke my mum up whom once realising what had happened told my dad and they rushed me to hospital.
When Shelby was in hospital this last week, there were 5 children that were in and out of the beds in her ward. 3/5 were there for attempted suicide and self harm. How heart breaking is that? All aged 13-16. So I've sat here pondering, are the most at risk groups the elderly, young teens and men? Why are they the most likely to do these things? What can we do to help? What can we do to change these statistics?? These are only my opinions mind guys and not proven facts.
Teens- Stress of high school and exams, Stress of relationships both sexual and platonic and understanding the feelings involved, Domestic abuse at home either witnessing or physical. Sexual abuse. Bullying.
What can we do to help?? Encourage children to talk about their feelings and emotions from an early age. Be less pressuring as parents in pushing for the best grades and support study and revision more, pay more interest in what THEY want not what WE want for them. Teach them from an early age about sexual boundaries, make them more aware of their body and private parts, teach them what is for them only and what other adults or children shouldn't touch or see, give them more privacy in the shower, encourage them to wash THEIR bits from an early age. Educate on bullying and healthy relationships and boundaries in friendship groups and sexual relationships, encourage practising safe sex.
Men- The pressure of having to be the strong dependable one whom is always the rock for others, the stigma that it's not masculine to struggle or cry. Its weak for men to show emotion or break down.
What can we do to help change the stigma? What can we do to encourage our grandads, dad, uncles, brothers, sons to speak out. To talk more openly about feelings and emotions and help them to better deal with it?
The elderly- Loneliness I would say is the main one here. Feeling like a burden on their family because they cannot do the things they're used to. Living with chronic illnesses and pain and struggling to cope with not being as independent as they used to be and having to rely on others to live a "normal" life.
How can we help them live more independent lifestyles? What can we do to help combat that loneliness, can we rally around as a family and have set days/times that various ones of us go round and spend time with that person? Not to clean or "look after" but to simply spend time with them, make them feel worthy of your time and affection, sit and listen to them, show them they matter and they're loved.
Communication is key. But a lot of people don't really listen to understand. Even looking between the lines for what people are saying. Sometimes help sounds like......
"Come and sit with me and eat some of these chips" - I'm fed up of eating alone night after night, please sit with me and eat so that I don't feel so lonely"
"Are you free for a brew" - I could really do with the company, I'm feeling isolated.
"Do you fancy going for a walk with me" - "I really need to get out and I'm scared to go alone"
"Could you please babysit for the night" - I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by all this responsibility and I'm exhausted and need to recharge my batteries.
or it can even sound like this...
"I'm fine or I'm okay." - are they really or do they feel like they cannot talk about their feelings? How many times have you told someone you're fine and you've not been aa you either think you will be a burden or think people won't care or want to hear?
"I'm busy today, I can't make it." - are they really busy or are they lacking motivation to do to things they used to enjoy?
"Sorry I've got loads of housework to do" - are they keeping busy to avoid stopping and having to feel or think? Are they heading for a crash and burn as they're struggling to deal with emotions or negative thoughts?
I'm not saying all the above will be spot on as sometimes people just need a day to do housework you know and they probably are busy, but If you know there are things going on in their personal lives and they may be struggling then just be mindful. I'm not exactly sure what my point is at this stage or why I told you about my grandad as It's something I don't really speak about as it bloody hurts. But if you are someone who is contemplating suicide or has done in the past, know that there are people who love you deeply, there are people who have special places in their hearts just for you and if you decided you didn't want to be strong anymore, that you would leave a massive massive hole in the hearts of those who love you that could never be replaced, as there's only one you and you are irreplaceable. Because of you someone has a favourite cup to drink out of, someone will smile at a memory of something they've done with you, someone checks their phone wanting your name to pop up, you are somebody's favourite person. If you need help dealing with your emotions reach out to those who love you or join a support group with people going through similar, talking really is the best therapy I promise.
If you have elderly relatives especially widowers or those who live alone, gather the family, rally round them, put a good support network/plan in place between you so they never have to think they're a burden to people and never sit in loneliness left to wonder if anyone cares. Show them they matter, show them they're worthy of the love and affection they freely gave you growing up. My grandad was once absolutely devastated that I had to wipe his arse for him as he was a very proud man, I simply made light of it and told he'd wiped my arse enough over the years and now it had come full circle and was my turn to help him. Encourage your children to be more open and honest with feelings and emotions, divulge some of your own emotions and your own experiences, show them it's ok to struggle, but also show them how important it is to get back up and keep fighting. Keep an eye on your husbands/boyfriends/brothers if they're going through a tough patch, meet up for a regular coffee, check in often, sometimes your company, your time spent being present is all that matter, show them they're not alone and never will be.
People who suffer from depression, or any sort of mental illness, and who share their story -
are not looking for attention.
They are paving the way so that
you know you are not alone.
So that you know that there is Hope.
& so you know that it is ok - to not be ok.
For my grandad, whom I love and miss dearly.
"Its what we hold in our hearts that matters"
William Arthur Routledge
27/2/38 - 29/1/16