Recently, a member of my family attempted suicide.
To say it scared me is an understatement. To say I knew what to do or say is a lie. I can’t begin to imagine what she was feeling or how dark a place she must have been in to feel that was the only way out.
What do you do? What do you say? The emergency part had been covered- an ambulance called, loved ones with her. I was in another state. I couldn’t do anything except wait. So, like the rest of the family, I waited and I hoped for a positive outcome. And it was positive, in that she didn’t die. But it’s really not as simple as any other medical emergency, where a person can be helped by surgery or some other medical intervention. The medical intervention part can save a person’s life then and there- and I’m so thankful for that. The thing with mental illness is that there is no quick fix, one-off treatment. The solution is not the same for everyone. Will the person need medication? Maybe. Will they need therapy? Almost certainly. But the reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all way to help people who are living with a mental illness and contemplating suicide.
My family has been affected by mental illness. My darling Nan lived with schizophrenia. Various other family members have lived with or are living with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Mental illness? We know what it is. Even if we don’t know the ins and outs of a person’s condition, we get it. It’s an illness; people living with mental illness benefit most from our empathy and our compassion. Not our judgement or our derision.
So many people think that those who attempt or commit suicide are selfish, cowardly or weak. And that is a bullshit generalisation. A couple of days after this happened, my family member shared this on Facebook, because she is brave and she is strong, even though she is struggling:
On the 31st of August 2015, I tried taking my own life for the 4th time since I was 18 years old.
I am not going to lie to myself or anybody else anymore. I am very sick. I have depression, ptsd and anxiety. Mental illnesses should be spoken about. Not hidden, it needs to be understood better and fixed.
That night I stared into the mirror and spoke to my reflection.
“Are you ready for this?”
“You may not wake up this time”
“I know and I’m okay with that”
I popped all my pills into my hand, stared at myself and nodded.
I was ready for whatever was going to happen.
I swallowed those pills, said my goodbyes by sending everyone a text message saying that I loved them.
I went downstairs to my beautiful gf and told her I loved her. I would of fallen asleep in her arms peacefully, I would of loved to have died like that.. But she wasn’t silly. She knew I had done something.
I’ve never had a good relationship with medication and razors. I am not a selfish person, nor an attention seeker. Mental illness is real and is alive in a lot of people’s lives. I am lucky to have my close friends, family and gf to support me during this time.
I thank you for your understanding and love.
I will get better. I will find the right help for me to recover. I have a long life to live with so many goals to complete.
I’ve lied to myself for too long. I need help.
(Reproduced here with permission)
Things like self-harm or suicide or any other sort of self-destructive behaviour exhibited by someone living with mental illness are not signs of weakness. It is not selfish or cowardly. It is a symptom of a serious illness. When a cancer patient is in pain, do we chide them for not being braver? When someone with epilepsy has a seizure, do we accuse them of not thinking of how that might make others feel? When a diabetic person has a hypoglycemic attack, do we tell them to tough it out?
Mental illness is no different. Dismissing feelings of depression or other symptoms of mental illness can make matters much worse because it contributes to the isolation the person may already be feeling. This can make them even less likely to seek help.
Today is R U OK Day and it’s as good a time as any to ask the question if you suspect someone you know might need help. It’s scary to ask if someone is okay, because what if the answer is no? What do you say or do? What if you make things worse somehow? I think the best thing you can do is to arm yourself with knowledge and then to make some time to have that conversation.
If you are feeling depressed or suicidal- please talk to someone. Call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14. If you need immediate help, don’t hesitate, call 000.
#WWU @ Melting Moments
#FYBF @ With Some Grace