World Suicide Prevention Day

On Saturday evening I attended one of the many Lifeline Out of the Shadows walks for World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD).

Out of the Shadows scarves and bandannas

 

Even my dog is sporting a bandanna in support of WSPD.

A group of about 36 ended up turning up and together we walked through town wearing the Out of the Shadows apparel and holding battery operated candles. We had small cards explaining about the walk and WSPD to hand out to passers-by to raise awareness.

One of the things we had was a reflection tree where we invited people to write small reflections or messages on a paper leaf and hang it up.

Reflection Tree

It was sad reading what some people had wrote. A few had lost people to suicide. Others wrote messages about needing to speak out, increase awareness of suicide and that there is help available. It made me feel rather sorrowful as it’s just so difficult to remember this sometimes. That it’s easy to read this, but so much harder to actually speak it aloud and tell someone that you’re feeling suicidal, hopeless and alone.

And even people who ask for help don’t necessarily get the help that they need and end up taking their life which is all the more devastating. I watched the 4corners story on youth suicide There’s No 3D in Heaven last night and could really relate to the frustration that some of these family and friends share about the lack of mental health services. It shouldn’t happen that those who require support don’t receive it.

The Story of Ending Up in Emergency

Whilst I was very drowsy and not very with it, I do have a hazy memory of what happened. I remember laying in bed in the afternoon with my mother asking if I was okay. I told her I was. About an hour after she first asked, she cottoned on that I had taken an OD. I hit the floor upon trying to get up out of bed, which foiled her plan to take me to hospital. An ambulance was called…after she asked my fourteen year old brother what the number was. The second time in an ambulance and I’d still have no idea what the inside of it was like if you asked. I remember falling heavily into the wheelchair on arrival at the ED before being put on a bed. Vaguely remember being given an ECG, having a cannula put in by the doctor and given fluids, having a student nurse look after me and being interviewed by the psych liaison nurse. Think I met her back in May actually. The only part of the conversation I remember now is when she asked me what I wanted from ODing again, as I knew what would happen from doing it before.

The next day she came to speak to me again with a doctor. This time I was a bit more with it. The plan was to send me to the private hospital where my psychiatrist is, however, they didn’t have a bed available. And so the options then were; go home and await contact from the private hospital, wait in the ED for a bed in private hospital, or go to a public psych ward. I chose home. But I couldn’t convince them I could stay safe over the weekend and my ‘ambivalence’ worried her. The decision was made for me to spend another day in the ED. Oh the joys.

It was somewhat embarrassing to be recognised from my trip to the ED a week earlier. One nurse saw me and exclaimed, “Weren’t you here just two or three days ago?” “Umm…it was a week ago…” I replied. Another psych liaison nurse too added when he introduced himself to me, “I think I met you three or four weeks ago.” I didn’t bother correcting him, informing him it was only a week. He was the one who finally got me a bed. Not at the private psych clinic, but at the psych ward of another public hospital, where there was a bed. Which is where I am now, and have been since Sunday afternoon. I’ve been told they’re moving me to the private psych clinic when a bed becomes available…but at this rate it’ll be next friggin’ year ’til that happens…

ED again a week later

If you’ve been on Twitter lately and find me interesting enough to follow, you may already have some clue. But for those who don’t, basically I OD’d again. It was the forth one in the past couple of weeks but only the second in terms of landing my arse in the ED because of it.

You can rest assured you’ll be hearing the whole sordid story once I get on a computer…but for now, here’s some photos of where I am to keep you entertained:

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Hell if you suicide?

Is there life after death? Do those who complete suicide automatically earn a one way ticket to hell? When I’m contemplating suicide, that too is what I also consider.

Though officially Catholic, I’m not particularly religious. I haven’t prayed nor been to church in goodness knows how long. I’m unsure if I believe in God and all the teachings of the church. What if though? What if there really is a heaven and a hell and our faith (or lack of) is what determines where we go? I have to admit, the possibility petrifies me. What if I end my life on earth only to end up in a place a thousand times worse, for eternity? A hundred years suddenly doesn’t seem that long in comparison.

So is it worth the risk? A part of me says yes, a part of me says no. But either way there’s doubts. Unfortunately there’s really only one sure way of finding out the truth to this question.

People Need Others

“If you don’t have someone who believes in you, you’re not going to be on this earth very long. So tell me you all have someone in your life so that you’re in for the long haul?”

Words spoken today by the tutor who took our class for the Aboriginal Health and Culture unit. He was referring to the video we were watching where an Aboriginal man told of his experiences being part of the stolen generation. This Aboriginal man was sent to a missionary and told his parents didn’t want him, contrary to the truth, and later on battled with binge drinking and illicit drugs, overdosing twice. The tutor then linked this to people needing to be loved and cared for. He told us that alcohol and drug use are forms of self harm and self medication, and that suicide is the leading cause of death amongst the under 35.

Related to this is what came up in my most recent psychologist appointment. We spoke of the one year mark since my first ED admission following an overdose, and the difficult feelings that came up with it. “So what keeps you here now?” she asked me. I answered that knew I had commitments. My Uni course. Fieldwork at the hospital. A workshop for a youth organisation I volunteer for. She enquired as to whether there is anyone in my life that kept me anchored here. “Umm…not really…” I replied. I don’t know whether it’s that I’m selfish, or whether I just lack the vision to see this, but I don’t feel a true connection to..well…anybody. So I don’t think of the impact on others if I want to die because I don’t think it will impact people all that much. I know my mother, my grandparents and my aunt love me. But while there’s love, there’s no real connection. I have friends, but no real close friends I catch up with regularly and can talk to about everything. Boyfriends? Non-existent. I’m twenty in a little over a month and I’ve never even been on a date, let alone had a boyfriend.

This same issue keeps cropping up, the social isolation, that sense that I’m alone in the world and no one understands me. I don’t know how this is ever going to change. And if it doesn’t change, well… I’m not that strong and others before me haven’t survived. The tutor I had today isn’t pulling this stuff out of thin air, he has a Masters in Counselling and works in the field.

Australian Story- Brand New Day

I was watching Australian Story last night and this particular episode featured Gavin Larkin. He is one of the founders of R U OK? Day, a suicide prevention initiative which aims to promote the message that by simply asking someone, “R U OK?” you could potentially save a life. It was a very moving and sad episode.

His father completed suicide and at the present, Larkin himself has lymphoma which is unable to be treated. He is expected to survive just weeks or months from now. There’s something of a cruel irony in his situation. His father took his life and yet here he is fighting and losing the battle for his.This prompted me to ponder how oddly the world works. There are people who are so desperate to live but destined to die. Then there are those of us who are so desperate to die but despite our greatest intents and attempts, live. I wonder why this is so. Are we all victims of the cruel joker named ‘Life’? Or is there a greater reason so many of us who want to die survive? That’s probably something we’ll never know…but I do hope there is a reason I’m meant to be here.

SBS Insight: Talking About Suicide

There are many road campaigns encouraging us to slow down and refrain from driving when tired or affected by alcohol. ‘Drop 5, save lives,’ ‘Don’t drink and drive,’ ‘Distracted drivers are dangerous drivers’ are a few of the slogans that come to mind. Why do they pop into my head so easily? Because of the frequency it’s broadcasted on television and radio. Which is great, a reduction of the road toll would be a wonderful outcome. What about suicide though? It claims more lives than road accidents. Yet when I try to think of just one ad campaign targeting the suicide rate, none come to mind.

At current there are certain rules and regulations governing any discussion of suicide in the media. There is a reason for this; the risk of ‘copycat suicides,’ the fear that portrayal of suicide methods may generate ideas and some viewers may find it upsetting. What’s the risk of not talking about it though?

This was the topic of discussion on SBS Insight last week, Talking Suicide. Those interested who live in Australia can view it online here or alternatively read the transcript here.

I think most within the discussion agreed that we do need make suicide a less of a taboo subject and there needs to be awareness surrounding the issue. Doing so in a sensitive manner which fits the guidelines and doesn’t ‘promote’ suicide is the tough part. Professor Pat McGorry raises a good point though- those who are suicidal can seek out material discussing suicide online quite easily and there are no guidelines governing what is posted in the virtual world.

There were two sample suicide prevention ads shown, one from the UK, one from Israel, and the audience were invited to discuss. One woman in the audience commented, “Very strongly I feel that if you want to create an ad regarding prevention of suicide, it should be completely highlighting the victims of suicide, that is people who are left behind because their agony is something which will prevent a person from committing suicide.” John Brogden, the National Patron for Lifeline and a suicide attempt survivor himself, disagreed with this idea. Drawing on his own experiences, he said that one of the reasons he wanted to take his life was the shame he felt he had put his family through, and that thought that they would be better off without him. I’m also one who disagrees with the woman’s views, that an advertisement portraying the devastation of the people left behind will prevent me from attempting suicide. When I’m in the depths of depression, family and friends don’t really come into the equation. I believe that no one cares, no one would notice if I died. I’m so absorbed within my own pain and wanting to end the agony that I don’t even think I may end up passing on the pain to those around me. Or maybe I’m just selfish?

One point made by the Magistrate State Coroner which I found a bit dubious was the comment that some teenage boys will complete suicide in a moment of teenage angst. The exact quote was, “The one that I really get most upset about, and I’m sure, nothing’s worse than anything else if you’re involved I suppose, but teenage people, especially boys who I actually think don’t understand that they’re mortal. And I think often they will say ‘Well I’ll teach you mum,’ because mum just said you can’t go down and play soccer before dinner or whatever, and so within a few minutes, without having thought about it much, they go up to their bedrooms and hang themselves. My feeling is, and I’ve talked with mental health nurses about that, that they actually don’t realise it is forever. There’s this moment of teenage angst […]” I find it hard to get my head around the idea that these teenagers don’t realise that they can die if they try to kill themselves and that they do so just because their parents restricted them from going to play soccer. Surely if it drives someone to go kill themselves they already had deeper issues before they did the deed?

Breaking down the barriers and creating change is hard. But it can be done, and it has been done in the past. As said by John Brogden, “Forty years ago I’m sure that people would have been aghast if you suggested that we should suggest to women to get their breasts tested. How could you use that word in public? Now cricketers play cricket in pink once a year or whatever it is to promote that you know – how could you talk to men about testicular cancer or prostate cancer – oh my god – we are big enough and smart enough to deal with this now rather than find excuses and I don’t want us to find excuses to telling people who feel this way – there is a way to deal with it. That’s the message.”

The closing message I’d like to quote was also made by John Brogden. “One thing I want to make sure that people watching this show understand and I don’t think there is a person here who would disagree with one message from tonight… it’s that you’re better off talking about suicide than not.. I’ve met parents who say I wouldn’t know how to talk to my kid…. You’re better to talk about it than not talk about it as that will open them up… you’re not going to put the idea in their head and that’s a great worry that too many people have and I’d like to think that people will turn off the TV after this and think about talking to friends and family and this very important issue.” I couldn’t agree more. The time is now to talk about suicide.