Today is #WorldSuicidePreventionDay and I would anticipate a number of posts being shared on social media today. Please scroll to the bottom for what I hope is useful, actionable guidance, but feel free to meander through the rest of this.
I wanted to share my story here in the hopes of making it safe for folks to start a conversation and to remove the stigma around mental health and suicide. I'm in a great place, and continue to be supported and continue to perform.
I've struggled most of my adult life with mental health issues and low mood. I combat it with exercise, family and my dogs. A number of years ago I found that things got worse - a marriage breakup and a number of other issues and I wasn't sleeping and hit my lowest point. After a few days of anxiety, tired and struggling, a 4am thought and I hit a snap point where I was ready to die. I didn't complete, and 3 hours later I was at my desk at work and had a 'normal day', as I had done for months beforehand.
I got help at work, I had an amazing team and support structure in my previous role, and because of this support, I didn't miss a single day at work during this time.
I've been in a great place (mostly) for a number of years now.
The thing that made the difference to me was fundamentally talking - I didn't initially reach out, I was ashamed, I was fearful, I thought I'd be judged. It was my team that reached out to me, not because of any missed goals/performance, but because they were worried.
We all of us know people like this, you may have these people on your team, in your family, in your friends group - this is, unfortunately, not a unique occurence.
I now make sure that I talk about mental health and suicide as widely as able (hence this post) - I make sure I share my story with new team members, not to get anything in return, but to indicate that it is a safe space to talk about mental health, it is a supportive environment, and we care.
I think mental health issues and suicide are incredibly stigmatised, and we avoid talking about it, and we see it as somehow reducing us - damaging performance, making the person less than whole. It doesn't have to be this way - with the right support, people can remain high performing and comfortable. Work for me became a balm, and the support I received will continue to be something I'm incredibly grateful for.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
We as humans are incredible creatures, and we are hard wired for connection. We all have felt that feeling of 'something isn't right' with our friends, colleagues, or family from time to time. Please address the elephant in the room.
- How is your mood?
- Are you struggling with low mood at the moment?
- I'm worried about you, your mood seems low, I want to help, how can I?
THE 'S' WORD
Do not be afraid of asking a question around suicide. The word is stigmatised the same way things like 'cancer' used to be. All of the suicide charities now suggest you should feel comfortable using the word, and the mere mention of it is statistically proven to reduce the chances of someone completing suicide.
- Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
- Are you feeling suicidal?
The last thought I'd love to share is on the wording of 'commit' - it's been historically used, and it is recommended not to use it. It has links back to the criminality of the act, and it has incredibly negative connotations. Instead, consider:
- Completed suicide
- Died by suicide
Thank you for reading. Please reach out to those around you for whom your spidey senses may be tingling. Let's support each other ❤️