*The following post may be triggering. Please make sure you are in a safe place before reading. If you are struggling please contact your GP or give the people at Life Line a call on 13 11 14*
With the recent suicide of Charlotte Dawson, mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of the media’s attention. The weekend morning shows all had segments with various professionals on how to recognise signs in our loved ones. It’s great that there is a national conversation going on right now about suicide but (there’s always a but) I’m not sure how appropriate the context is.
The main focus of the conversation appears to be how we can stop our loved ones from attempting and succeeding in committing suicide. This is the part that I have an issue with, it’s insensitive to the struggle of the person with suicidal thoughts and the family members left behind. It makes the assumption that it was up to the people who knew them to make an observation that even trained professionals can miss.
There is no set ‘this is what a mental health patient looks like’ so I wonder why there is the idea that a person experiencing suicidal thoughts will act a certain way. I think that we would all like to tell ourselves that we would notice the signs if someone close to us is feeling suicidal. However hearing these signs must feel heart wrenching to those who have lost someone to suicide. It must feel like everyone is telling them that they missed all of the signs and that there was something they could have done.
To put things bluntly, no one can stop someone from acting on their suicidal thoughts. I have attempted suicide multiple times..was there anything that someone could have said that would have flicked a switch and made a difference? The short answer is no. It’s complex and something that a lot of people keep to themselves. Sometimes there are no signs.
It’s up to us to be there for our family and friends, to support them when they are struggling in life. However I don’t think it is fair to place the burden of a persons mental illness and their actions on the people in their life. Regardless of whether the family and friends notice the signs, it is still up to the person to open up. You can’t force someone to accept the help they may desperately need. It’s not always failing of the mental health system or that no one saw the signs, sometimes the despair becomes too much.
I say bullshit to the signs. Maybe they need to be repackaged so that we are better connected to our loved ones, steps that help us to keep up a conversation instead of people feeling like they have to hide how they are feeling. Mental Illness is nothing to be ashamed of, feeling suicidal is nothing to be ashamed of and the more we talk about our experiences I hope that we can help to reduce the statistics.
Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT