A chat about suicidal thoughts for National Suicide Prevention Week

What I’m deciding to write about today is a period in my life that I was lucky enough to endure, make careful decisions and survive to become who I am today. It was scary for me in the time it happened and it’s, honestly, scary to have to bring it up again. In writing. Online. But you’d be surprised the reality of the situation and how common it can be for many people.

Suicidal thoughts isn’t a vivid, harsh costume or mask that will be pain-painstakingly obvious to everyone else. You’ll never meet up with a friend and be instantly clued into how they’re feeling at this exact moment. Sometimes it may be more easy than others, but depression and the severity of symptoms can be invisible and the only way to communicate how someone feels is through talking.

Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone at any time

The funny thing to me, personally, about this time in my life is that it was meant to be a period in my life where everything should have been exciting, it should have been fun and things should have been going my way and I should have maybe been kick starting up a whole new ray of confidence inside myself. The complete opposite is true. My mental health hit, what I’d consider, it’s rock bottom. The first few months of University I had a spiral of depression, PTSD, anxiety and self-destructive behaviours that took me so long to get out of. Even today I’m still affected by this period in my life whether it be self-hatred thoughts about how I acted and questioning and regretting constantly what I could have done differently.

A lot of things went wrong for me in my first week of University, this would then eventually lead onto me skipping class, sleeping through the day, not sleeping at night. Things got worse and I found myself pushing away friends, not going into work, being rude and disrespectful to important people in my life, drinking excessively until I couldn’t feel or remember anything, impulsive money spending. My mental health was like a dripping tap that just kept drip, drip, dripping every little reason to be happy. I was ruining myself with self-destructive behaviours and ruining everything around me because I felt this was who I was meant to be and that it’d be fine because I felt maybe soon I’d be gone.

That didn’t obviously come true. I’m still here.

What happened is a personal story, but what happened on the day in a way makes me weirdly thankful for my anxiety. I ended up having a panic attack in work because the thoughts were too much, they felt like daggers in my chest and I could still feel the voice somewhere telling me ‘I don’t actually want this’ so I knew I had to try and get help. I ended up rushing out mid shift and taking myself to Samaritans. A lot of my bad days around this period of University is starting to slowly blur into a weird, fuzzy memory now which I’m grateful for because it makes the healing a lot easier, but I remember visiting Samaritans so vividly. Their building is so quiet and so bright. All the members of staff there are very calm and do want to help you in any way they can. There was a lot of forces that helped me decide it’s best to carry on but physically getting the bad thoughts off my chest and realising what they meant helped me so much. I can’t remember what I did after visiting there but I’m glad I decided to carry on.

My depression has never gone away but eventually after that period in my life I was lucky enough to meet one of the best counsellors I’ve ever had and she was able to help me cope a lot better with my depression, PTSD and anxiety. I learnt to take responsibility for the things I did wrong during my ‘bad time’ but not let them take such a heavy hold on my life and to work on ignoring the bad thoughts, the self-hatred and work towards looking at life more clearly and with more optimism. I feel talking to her and working with her was my physical proof of why being able to access help is so important.

Suicide affects everyone

In 2015, according to Samaritans, overall there was 6,188 people who died of suicide just in the UK. Their statistics also show that the age groups with highest suicide rate per 100,000 are anyone, regardless of gender, in the 45-49 age group. (1) There is also a study online conducted by the University of Manchester, into suicide in children and young people who shows the majority of deaths they included in the study were male (70%) and that ten common themes in suicide by young people include experience of suicide, abuse, neglect, bullying, academic pressures, physical health conditions, alcohol/substances and mental health. It also discusses that around a quarter (27%) of the people in the study had expressed suicidal ideas in the week before they died. (2)

I believe this statistics shows how important it is we need to listen to people and that we all damn well need to get better at it. The truth is a lot of people suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts don’t want to talk about it. It’s draining and stressful and nothing is more terrifying than admitting to anybody close that we aren’t satisfied with living. You might be able to tell through the whole post I’ve even skirted around saying I’ve had those feelings because it’s a horrible feeling to live with. I’ve been lucky enough to get past that feeling, to get help and to move on but some people aren’t so lucky and in the UK year by year it’s getting even more difficult to access help. People are either sent home because they’re not ‘in danger enough’, the waiting lists for counselling are months long or people have to pay extortionate amounts and travel long distances to get help (4). These blocks in the road make it so difficult for people struggling with suicidal thoughts. When someone is at that point and feels that way, they deserve good help. It takes a lot of courage and bravery to ask for help and talk about how you feel so when you get sent home or just told measly rubbish like ‘go outside more’ or ‘think more positive thoughts’ it is literally a kick in the teeth, punch in the guts and then some.

Guilt and being condescending isn’t a way forward

You’ve seen the posts on Facebook. You’ve heard that one relative or person at work who says these ignorant things. Telling people that suicide is selfish and that people who do it don’t ‘think of the people around them’ and that they’re cowards is not helping anyone in the slightest. The scary truth is if someone wants to go through with it, they have a huge chance of doing so. Being condescending and ridiculing them is not helping.

A mental health study in the UK reported that 51% of adults who felt stressed also felt depressed and 61% felt anxious. (3) When the majority of people in the UK are suffering from a mental health issue, diagnosed or not, why are we still being mean? Why are we still making jokes about suicide, making jokes about overdoses and using the deaths of celebrities to shift blame and make clickbait tabloids. Sure, whenever National Suicide Prevention Week and other national awareness days come along, a large majority online now will discuss that we need to erase the stigma of suicide but what we also really need to do is be more respectful as people. Take suicide more seriously and take the people, our loved ones, our fellow colleagues, friends, classmates way more seriously if they come forward saying they don’t feel good. Everyone deserves the chance to reach out for help and try to work their way past these dark feelings. Everyone should have the right to access free, useful mental health help. The statistic in suicide in young people for children who didn’t get to access any service is the highest number for a reason.

The sole thing I think everyone needs to take away and consider on National Suicide Prevention Week is that we all need to fight harder against the people who are trying to strip us of our mental health services. Being able to access counselling could be the one thing that sets somebody who is at their lowest off on a journey of healing and recovery. We all need to take the topic of suicide more seriously. Suicide is never and will never be something you just hear about in young people, celebrities and online. It’s a very real deal that can affect anyone of any gender and age.

HELPLINES UK:

  • Samaritans: 116 123
  • CALM (for men): 0800 58 58 58
  • Papyrus (for people under 35): 0800 068 4141
  • Childline (for children, under 19’s): 0800 1111
  • Switchboard (for LGBTQ+): 0300 330 0630

NHS Website:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/

SOURCES:

  1. https://www.samaritans.org/sites/default/files/kcfinder/files/Suicide_statistics_report_2017_Final.pdf
  2. http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=37568
  3. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-stress
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/20/help-mental-health-problem-five-stories

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Teenagers in UK not being able to access sanitary products?

Despite the on and off stigma of periods and talking about them that you grow up with if you are a vagina bearer, periods are still a thing that half of the population get and cannot just turn off at the switch of a button. Everybody’s periods are different – they can range in how long they’re around for, how heavy they are, different intensity of period cramps, different period symptoms/PMS to go alongside it and the time between them can be different too. But almost every person with a menstrual cycle invests in some sort of sanitary product. Whether it’s towels, tampons, reusable cloth pads, menstrual cups etc. etc. It’s a necessity to bring comfort, hygiene and peace of mind to the person on their period. So how come access to sanitary products is starting to become harder for school girls in Leeds?

It’s not the first people have heard of teenagers missing out on education or school because of their body’s natural cycle. In rural Uganda girls miss around eight days of school due to lack of resources, in Garissa, Kenya 86% report missing school due to periods and in India 23% of girls drop out when they start menstruating. Isn’t that crazy? Girls/young people with vaginas should not miss out on getting an education just because of how their body works. Nobody chooses to have a period, right? This kind of problem is slowly creeping up on our doorstep! It’s been reported recently that in Britain, specifically Leeds, students are relying on their teachers to provide sanitary products or not coming to school at all during their period. Some of the students approached in this research explained they come from families maybe with a single parent or multiple siblings and when short on money it can be hard to get the sanitary products needed when they are on their periods.

I found this news quite sad because like I mentioned, nobody chooses to have a period and it must be quite upsetting to get into trouble for attendance when it’s just your body doing what it’s meant to do! So I decided I wanted to do something, even if it’s just blog posts to raise awareness, or get people talking more about periods and sanitary products, or try and raise some money to send off products to charities that specialize in providing people who have limited or no access to products with said products!

Today I put up a survey on my Facebook asking people to fill in a couple of questions that cover how many products you use on one period, have you ever found yourself in a place where you’ve had to makeshift something when you’re bleeding and can’t access a product, what age did you start requiring them and such. I got such a good response back, I’m so unbelievably happy and surprised! I hope to write a blogpost tomorrow, properly going over the numbers but so far I’ve noticed one common pattern – everybody agrees people should have access to free sanitary products and almost everyone feels like their high school didn’t do much to provide access to products/feel comfortable asking. Which made me kind of sad but more determined to start a discussion.

My survey is here to fill in! It’s only 10 questions and any response is useful! 

So what do I plan to try and do? Well tomorrow/Monday I will write up properly my findings on it! As well as that I’m trying to contact some local organisations that take in donations of pads/sanitary products for tips on raising awareness! Watch this space!
Thank you for reading,

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