Sep 10, 2010

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I have thought about writing a post about this many times before and I think I am ready to do it now.
In December 2009 I lost a very dear friend. She killed herself, in a very lethal way, there was a clear intent to die and that she did. I had known her since I moved here 10 years ago - she was one of the first people I became friends with as we had both moved up from Sydney at about the same time and both our blokes lived on the same property for a while- later we ended up working together. She was loud and gregarious and really loved by everyone who met her. I know people often describe someone like this after they have died but in this case she really was. Friends of mine who had met her once briefly when they came to stay asked about her for years after. She was friendly and loving and thoughtful. She was loud- she was so loud when I got to work I could hear hear voice through two wooden doors- she was one of those people that squeals and claps and moves around when she talked and just made you giggle when you were looking at her. She had a big mane of brown hair but she was physically quite small- I always forget that about her... she was a loving friend.

In the months leading up to her death she had a psychotic episode/ psychosis and was admitted to a psychiatric inpatient facility which, being a nurse, she talked herself out of a few days later- knowing exactly what to say in order to assure them she was fine- she was not fine. She had no known to us history of this at all. She was not fine at all. And so began the battle to keep her safe but not keep her locked up... another close friend and work colleague and myself spent literally hours on the phone talking to different people, (all three of us work in a field very closely linked to mental health and we have all worked in mental health at some point) talking to her, visiting her, monitoring, assessing, worrying about her, worrying about what she wasn't telling us, laying in bed at night worrying if she was ok. It absolutely consumed me for 4 months - it consumed all of us. I saw moods from her that I had never seen before- I saw her really angry and stressed and I also saw her knowing that she was becoming depressed and trying to battle it - trying to do everything to not sink into that hole, we now know she had been in before. I was watching her running from it but we didn't know what to do. She went to stay with family a few hours away to have some space.

I remember so clearly the last time I saw her. She wasn't sure how long she was going to be away for and I was off to New Zealand for 2 weeks but she hugged me so tightly and kissed Busy so many times but she was always a bit like that I didn't really think much about it. Part of me was relieved that she was going to be with family for a while as I needed some time away from the whole nightmare. I still feel bad about that.

She took her own life 3 weeks later.

My friend had spoken to her a few days before and she had said she was having thoughts of wanting to hurt herself but we just thought the idea of her doing it was just so utterly unlikely I really didn't give it a second thought. We all should have known better. But , even with all our combined mental health experience no one thought she would do it.

When Chef called to tell me I was at work and I knew as soon as I saw  it was him on the phone- I just knew something bad had happened to her. The pain and shock I felt, and having to go back inside and tell my work colleagues and friends - my heart just broke in two.

All this time later, I still cannot believe she killed herself.  I know she is gone and I will never see her again, but I cannot believe that is how she died...

The reason I am writing all of this because if someone is talking about suicide it is serious. When people say it is just attention seeking you need to ask yourself if that is the way they are asking to get attention then that is what they need- attention. It is serious, it happens. It happens all to frequently.

If you are worried about someone who is suicidal you can get more information on how to help here. For more inforamtion about mental health go to sane


Thanks for reading all the way to the very end.

29 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing it all the way to the end. I know that many of us have been touched by this personally.
    I'm glad you posted this.

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  2. oh cath, a very sad but insightful and honest post. must have been so difficult to write. x

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  3. Thank you for writing that. It must have been difficult for you.

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  4. Thank you so so much for writing this post. It was heart touching and must have been hard for you to write, but please be assured that it is something that we all need to talk more openly about, so that we can begin to get this recognised as the serious matter that it is.

    I hope that you are able to hold on to all the wonderful memories that you had with your friend. It sounds like she was an amazing person who brought much joy to her friends and family.

    Again, thanks for sharing something so difficult with everyone and making us all stop and take a moment to think about this issue.

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  5. Even people with no previous history can become suicidal if the right mixture occurs in their lives. I know I suffer from depression and even take medication but if I don't take it as regularily as I should or have a cup of coffee I change. All my natural positivity disappears and those wrong thoughts just pop up. I have come to recognise them for what they are and am also fortunate that at this time in my life I am willing to take the medication. Otherwise I dread to think where I would be. It sounds as if your friend had a dreadful fear of accepting the stigma of mental health. It is so important that we take that stigma away and let people know that it is not they who are barmy but that something has gone wrong. I know it goes against the tenets of many people's lives but isn't it silly of people who will pop a panadol or cough medicine any time they have the slightest ache to reject the medicines that could save them from these life taking situations. I feel for you as I also have a son who has attempted suicide and believe (unlike his father and stepmother with whom he lived at the time) that any such attempt should not be taken lightly. Hooray for today he has finally agreed to go to a doctor about his sleeping and vomitting problems. Cherrie

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  6. How wonderful of you to share such a deeply personal and painful experience. You have 'put it out there' for people to think about, and if it means one person gets help, then fantastic. I think suicide is the hardest on the family and friends that are left behind. Thinking of you x

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  7. Oh Cath, I wish so much I could give you a huge, tight hug right now. XX

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  8. Many thanks for writing about this deeply painful episode from your life - I know it was not easy...
    Thanks also for Willywagtail stating the fact that we DO need to remove the stigma of mental illness in our society. I have suffered from depression in my life and I have used medication to pull out of it at one time, but so many others do not get help due to the stigma attached to mental health. As Julia Thorne, author of You Are Not Alone and sufferer of depression had said:
    "It must be just as okay to say 'I feel bad today' as it is to say 'I feel great today'."
    I believe if we can start this small change, the other changes to shift the stigma can take place. Thank you again for writing so personally about this important issue.

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  9. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I too have been on that aweful death watch just never knowing what you were going to find when you walked through the door or picked up the telephone. I had to get to a place of letting go though because I was in danger of being sucked down the same hole, you have to realise at some point unless you lock the person up that if they want to die they will find a way no matter what you say or do. I only say this because we all tend to blame ourselves when things like this happen but really thats just an exercise in insanity and self torture.
    I am very greatful that my loved one was able to get through to the other side and find hope and a reason to go on even though it still is a daily struggle for them to stay on top of the black dog.

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  10. So sorry to hear about your gorgeous friend Cath. Thanks for sharing some insight into this difficult subject and for getting us thinking and talking about it.

    It always gets at me when people call suicide 'selfish'. I wonder if they walked in those shoes and felt the unbelievable amount of pain, whether they could still be so judgmental, or whether they would feel more compassion for what a person must be going through in order to want to end their own life.

    Thanks for letting us know today's prevention day. The link won't work properly for me though?

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  11. Thankyou so much for sharing this. I'm sure that this experience has had a huge impact on your life, and always will. This is not something we can bury our heads in the sand about. Mental illness is such a difficult thing to live with - both for the sufferer and those around them - but we cannot ignore depression. We can't afford to just hope that they will "sort it out". No one should die in such a state of despair. Every life is valuable. Thankyou Cath, for sharing this experience and helping to raise awareness about this.

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  12. Thank you ever so much for sharing your story with us. I know from personal experience how hard it is to be the one who is left behind. One of my brothers took his own life 8 years ago.
    Sending you a big hug & thank you again for sharing.

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  13. oh Cath, thank you for sharing such a personal story. I hope that you don't feel the guilt anymore because it sounds like you did all you could to be there for her.
    it does happen so often and only 3 weeks ago a kindie helper took her own life and it makes you wonder if anyone around "heard" her.
    big hugs Cath, thinking of you ♥

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  14. thank you for writing such a brave and personal post.
    I do hope you don't feel guilty anymore, because you honestly could have not done more. Suicide is a one of the most devasting and sadness things I think. i'm so sorry.
    sending you lots of love and big hugsxo

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  15. Hello Cath, This is the first time I have read your blog. Your stories characterises many thoughts and feelings the people who are left behind after suicide have. You were such a good friend to her and your advice to others is very true. Unfortunately sometimes despite all the help, all the friends and all the love in the world, some people will still commit suicide. Well done on writing such a brave and honest post
    regards
    Dr Lucy Burns

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  16. I really wish I lived closer!!!! I'm with kate. Hugs and kisses to you!!! xxx

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  17. Thanks for sharing this post. I've known too many people that have left us the same way xx

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  18. Thank you for honouring her memory with your beautiful words and for reminding us what today is really about. Love & hugs to you, Cath. You are a unique, giving and very treasured friend. Cath F xo

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  19. Hello Cath, I thank you too, with a heavy heart, for your writing (and a heavy heart is okay). Also- one of the links didn't work and one got me to SANE where I could navigate from but it said 'page not found'- just letting you know.
    Like you were lucky to have known you friend, I reckon she was lucky to have you too xx

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  20. Thanks so much for yout kind words. I had linked to individual fact sheets- whcih apparently you can't so all links now go to www.sane.org.
    thanks

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  21. You're a good woman.
    That was an excellent post!
    (And I'm sure a very difficult one to write).
    Andi xx

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  22. oh cath, thankyou for writing this post! my mum has bi-polar, she often has very high 'highs' and extremely intense 'lows'. she is stubbon by nature and regually refuses to take her meds. the worry that she might hurt herself is constantly in the back of my mind. thank you for helping me realise that my reminding her of all the wonderful things in her life worth sticking around for isnt all in vain.
    cheers to you ;)

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  23. Cath, a very touching story. R U OK? DAY is also running this month which is a National initiative to get everyone talking and most importantly asking the question, Are you OK? Lets hope people feel safe enough to say "No, and I need help". Whilst this is your story, I'm sure everyone can relate in some way. I don't know one person that hasn't been touched by mental illness either through a friend or family. It is so very important that we continue to talk about this and raise awareness. The community is doing far more of this than our government so lets hope they start hearing us and actually put some real funding behind the support required for good mental health.

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  24. Cath - a heart wrenching and important post. We've recently been touched by suicide, and while the person was a stranger to us, the effect was profound. You're a gem. Nic

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  25. A really important post to write Cath, but what a sad story for you. I'm glad she had a friend like you to help her try and navigate that sadness, even if in the end she made her own, tragic choice. Hugs to you.

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  26. I have no doubt how difficult that was to write all the way to the very end. I so hope that it proved a cathartic sort of writing. Giant hugs C, giant hugs.

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  27. thank you for writing such an important post... I hope you're feeling OK, and that you and all your friends who were affected by this sad event know you did all you could. you've done more than that really... and also helped more people you've never met through your honesty. take care x

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  28. Dear Cath,

    Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal story with us. I wish I could give you a hug.

    I'm just sort of speechless, and don't think anything I say is really adequate, but I am so glad your friend had friends like you to help her, support her, love her.

    Lots of love, x

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  29. Oh Cath, this moved me to tears when I read it on the weekend, I didn't know what to say then, but it did bring on a whole worldful of memories of my cousin Davie who took his own life over ten years ago now, I felt so helpless at the time, and reading your words were kinda healing in that they acknowledged our need and desire to help those who are doing it tough...thanks for the reminder of such an important day and for sharing such a deeply personal story, I hope your friend has found peace now xo

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