Why is talking about suicide so uncomfortable ?

For too long the subject of suicide has been taboo in our society.  This may have been fuelled by the early religious belief that a person who died by suicide could not be buried in consecrated ground.  Rather than face that shame, families would hide a suicide.

Although the topic does seem to be talked about more easily today, there is still hesitancy and reluctance around the it.

It maybe that we are afraid to upset someone who is thinking about suicide, or it could be we believe the old myth that if we talk about it we could be giving them the idea!

I get too that  people are careful not to upset those who’ve experienced a loss to suicide, but unless we talk more about it, then it will keep its taboo status and we will continue to lose loved ones to this scourge of our society.

Maybe we have a  friend or loved one we  think are not doing well mentally, yet we are still hesitant to actually ask straight up if they are okay or even if they are thinking about suicide.

Saying something like “Please don’t tell me you’re thinking about suicide!” only tells that person that you don’t want to know thats what they are contemplating .  The question needs to be asked directly, so you can expect a more informative answer, and then take the appropriate action.

It can be a difficult thing to ask, in fact it can be downright uncomfortable, however it is far better to feel like a fool for a little while, than have to front up to a funeral in the near future.

Asking “The Question” shows that you care about them, and you may be able to help them get the assistance they need.  Perhaps just to have someone there to listen to them might be all they need, or it may mean encouraging that person to call Lifeline, Suicide Help or similar organisation. Somewhere there are trained counsellors who can help or direct them to the appropriate resource. Reassuring someone you love by being bold enough to ask about their mental state may be all it takes to keep them with us.  It may be just what they needed to have them seek help, or to feel worthwhile again.

Years ago, when I was doing my nursing training, we were given a brief talk on suicidal people.  The outcome was that those who talk about suicide don’t actually follow through.  When Kelly told me she was going to do it –  to my everlasting regret –  I didn’t  believe her. So instead of planning her twenty first birthday party, we had to organise her funeral.

For me, in the early months after Kelly died, even though I wanted to talk about her, I would cry and get upset.  But that was just a normal reaction to losing my beautiful girl in tragic circumstances. A perfectly normal reaction.   I wasn’t the only one who felt that need , the other members of my family and her friends did too.

Now we have ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ and ‘R U Okay Day’, which are a great way to raise awareness, however we need to be vigilant all year round – not just on specified days.

The only way to reduce the incidence of suicide is to talk about it more, to become more at ease with the topic.  Maybe then we will see the statistics go down instead of continually rising as they have been doing.

It Always Happens To Someone Else.

The news seems to be always in your face.

Walking down the street, there are signs outside the Newsagents advertising the daily papers often with gruesome headlines about someone else’s misfortune.  But we don’t seem to really notice, we just take it all in our stride. That’s life.

I rarely buy a newspaper now, as it appears that all I’m doing is reading about someone else’s troubles, when at times it seems that I’ve got enough of my own.  If we watch television for any length of time we are bombarded with adverts for the news, some channels even have the rolling banners at the bottom of the screen to tempt you into watching their bulletins.  Because I’m a bit of a footy tragic, I’ve been getting quite a bit of air time lately, although that will all end after the AFL Grand Final on Saturday.  But, as a rule, I don’t like to watch too much telly as it is so unproductive – except when I can crochet and produce something useful.

We’ve become accustomed and desensitised about natural disasters, bombings, murders, suicides and terrorist attacks.  We may feel some sympathy for the victims, express our horror at what is being done and then go about our daily lives.  Perhaps we may even discuss some event with friends over coffee or wine, but generally it is forgotten rather quickly.

Until it happens to you.

For me, suicide was something that happened to other people. I’d never had any close experience of it, and really it wasn’t something that was spoken about very much.  I do recall hearing about a colleague who had lost a child to suicide, and felt very sad for her. But as she worked on another unit, I didn’t see her very often so I didn’t think about it too much.  Plus, I’d coped with both of my daughters attempting suicide, and though it was extremely distressing at the time, it seemed that it wasn’t too big a deal when both girls were getting on with their lives again, seemingly okay.

On the surface – which I learnt too late.

Then when I had to face the awful reality of it with my own child, it was devastating.  Why didn’t I know about this before?  How did I get beyond my children’ teenage years – and surviving two suicide attempts – without realising the catastrophic impact it has on your life.  Not only your own, but the lives of those close to your family and the victims friends.

I think Kelly was the first – and I believe only one – in her group of friends and it left them shell-shocked.  They had no idea how to deal with the death of one of their own. I watched them after the funeral; they seemed to have difficulty expressing themselves around us. Then when we had Kelly’s twenty-first birthday party, we encouraged them to talk about her, to tell the stories they fondly remembered. It seemed the dam had burst, when – after the initial hesitancy – they really let their hair down and laughed together over their remembrances. It was cathartic and healing.

So, yes, it does happen to others, but there is a new compassion for others in their grief, now that I’ve experienced my own.

 

Why Blog?

Blogging

Why blog? It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times, and I admit I had to think long and hard about my motives.

Firstly – I love to write – it’s a passion of mine and has been for a long time. I’d dreamt of being a published writer – and lets be honest here – that’s something that a lot of people do. But for me, I need to go back a fair way to find the origin of my actual writing.

Many years ago I was studying for my Diploma of Applied Science in Nursing at Sturt College of Advanced Education in South Australia. It was a course for distance education, but we had to actually spend a week in Adelaide at the beginning. One of the subjects was English Literature – something I’d really enjoyed at High school. However I wasn’t too thrilled when the lecturer explained that one of the requirements was to keep a journal! She meant we had to write something everyday – groan!!

So I reluctantly started my journal – like a diary really – and found myself addicted. I discovered that, as I was the only one reading it, I could write whatever I wanted and no one would criticise me. Then as I progressed I realised that it was a truly emotional outlet, it made me feel better, more in control of a life that at times threatened to be totally out of control.

Here I was, a mother of three young children, working practically full-time, studying – and that meant assignments, deadlines etc., and looking after my family. There was shopping, cooking, washing and housecleaning to be done as well as study, which didn’t leave much – if any – time for me.

I immersed myself in my journal, reasoning that it was actually part of my study and inadvertently discovered another world.

Money was rather tight, but I selfishly put myself first and invested in an old clunky typewriter. Made of dark green metal and very heavy, I loved it so much as it represented another world for me.

Over the years of journaling, I amassed a couple of A4 folders of printed pages. I didn’t do it every day, sometimes I’d go for weeks without writing, and then I’d be writing every day, sometimes twice a day. It became a lifeline. Those around me seemed a little amused by the growing collection of pages, but at last I’d found a way of coping with some of the dramas that were part of my life.

Journaling became a documentary of both the important and superficial things in my life. I still have the originals, some of which were later saved on my computer – when I became involved with technology.

I still prefer to feel the paper when I reread these jottings.

I also wrote poetry occasionally, and that too was an expression of my feelings at the time. Kelly was also into poetry and wrote prolifically. I believe that her poetry kept her alive for many years, as it gave her an outlet. Sadly the year she stopped writing, was the year she took her own life.

For me, being able to journal my thoughts and feelings in times of crisis kept me sane.

When Kelly died, I wrote letters to her telling her of the goings on in my life and what she was missing. Those letters were my sanity; my way of coping when it seemed my world had virtually ended. I remember writing the first letter to her, after the funeral and not being able to see the computer screen most of the time because of the tears. But it was vitally important for me to tell her what had been happening and how I felt.

Secondly it was my way of coping in a small world where everyone around me was grieving in their own way, and when I felt I couldn’t talk to them, but was able to talk to Kell.

So that’s what this blog is all about. Just because it’s been almost sixteen years since Kelly died, doesn’t mean that I don’t feel grief and sadness. Most times now I can talk about her death and all that it meant, but there are times when I really need to express my feelings privately.

Though I may seem to be really in control most of the time, its because I make the time to let my grief out on the computer. Then if I choose, I can share or not.

Finally, life can get too busy and its easy to forget to record special or interesting moments. So blogging is a way of disciplining me to take the time to write, plus I’m getting in practice for the next book – lol.