Monday the 12th was suicide awareness day. Anyone who has lost someone to suicide will know the importance of the date. They will also know the exact date their loved one killed themselves.
We lost a friend to suicide and it’s still not sunken in. The warning signs are not giant red flags, often there are no signs at all. Wives, husband, brothers, sisters and colleagues, are left to examine what they could have done to stop it, as well as deal with the pain and the shock of their loss.
Some people think suicide is a coward’s way out. I don’t agree. Some people think it’s the most selfish of acts. I don’t agree with that either. I think, to get in a place where ending your life seems the only answer, all other rationale has long since stopped applying to decisions.
This column is dedicated to Bryn and to male suicide, referred to as ‘the silent killer’. It is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
Statistics reveal 84 men take their own life each week. Add to that, the number of people affected by the death, and the rates of suicide spread far wider.
Suicide charities have listed warning signs that someone might be feeling suicidal. They include major changes to sleeping patterns, weight gain or weight loss. An increase in minor illnesses and a loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance.
Other changes in behaviour include alcohol or drug misuse, withdrawal from family and friends and quitting activities that were previously important.
How many of our friends show these signs and are not suicidal? Even if all the signs are there, what can we do to help?
We are a society who avoid phone calls and only respond to texts, and we are too busy to write them properly ‘Hope U OK. C U L8?’. We are so caught up in our busy lives that we don’t have time to examine those of others.
Facebook and Instagram don’t help. We don’t post when we feel sad, or when we need reassurance. Photos of what we had for dinner, how fast we ran or prosecco on a Friday is fine, but ‘Is anybody out there feeling as bad as I feel right now’ would get you blocked and cause a Whats app group named ‘what’s eating Gilbert Grape’ to be created about you.
We don’t talk to people, we talk about them to other people. We ‘like posts’ and photos but when do we comment and saying something other than ‘you look pretty’ or ‘great pic!’?
Suicide is often not about one thing. It’s a combination of things that build up. To prevent suicide we can't start talking or listening when it’s gotten serious. It’s about changing the way we interact with people from the very beginning. It’s going in for a hug, making and holding eye-contact. It’s being available to people without booking them in three weeks in advance.
We used to go and knock for our mates on our BMX’s. Now we make appointment in smart phones. If people dare turn up unannounced we are indignant at the intrusion.
It’s odd, we all think so much of ourselves and at the same time, not enough.
It’s okay to feel depressed. Sad. Melancholic. Angry. It’s okay to not feel like going out. It’s okay to be in a room of people and feel like you are on your own.
It’s okay, but we don’t talk about it.
If only talking about our feelings provoked the same response as 'cats falling over memes', or misheard lyrics.
Maybe that’s what suicide is, misheard- lyrics. We think one thing, but actually, we’ve not been listening closely enough the whole time. How are we supposed to know someone is not coping? The answer is we don’t, which is why we talk more and more often and try and see the world through other people's eyes, not just our own.
Remember that old Post Office advert, Saw this and thought of you? Maybe we need to try a bit more of that. How long does it take to send a postcard, or a buy a 50p fridge magnet from a car boot sale that reminds you of someone you love? It is not the big things that will stop suicide, just as it’s not the big things that cause it. We need to change in a hundred little ways, starting with being more honest, to ourselves and to others.
As Linsey says so well ‘My gorgeous, funny, sensitive brother Bryn hung himself on the 5th/ 6th December 2016 He was 40, he was struggling. We need to talk about suicide openly, without shame, without judgement and without guilt.... and we need to speak to the people we know who are down, sad, stressed, unwell and just keep checking they are OK.