The fact that I had to think long and hard before I decided to write about suicide in this blog, makes me fully aware that there is still a huge stigma around suicidal thoughts and ideation. Yet I have had a large number of clients over the years, who have suicidal thoughts and they have often felt a huge amount of shame in bringing them to therapy. I have also lost friends and close colleagues to suicide and sat with clients who have lost those they love with devastating effect.
I have come to understand that those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression can at times want it all to come to an end and stop all the pain. I want to normalise this and encourage people to reach out and speak about how they are feeling, as suicidal thoughts can make us feel isolated and deeply alone at the time when we most need each other.
During my training I worked for Maytree, a fantastic organisation that took a normal terraced house, peopled it with volunteers and let those who were feeling suicidal come and stay for a week. The reason it helped was the cups of tea around the kitchen table where ordinary people (not therapists), shared how they were feeling and were finally listened to. They helped each other and most importantly they reached out to let others know how desperate they felt. I remember one resident saying how humbled he felt that he was not alone in his desolation; “I saw that however desperate I was, I needed to reach out and ask for help, if just one person reached back I knew I was not alone”.
In her book “Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against it”; Jennifer Hecht argues that we are all precious as human beings and that by asking others for help we give them the chance to help us, as would help them if were in the right place to do so. Most importantly we need to start removing the shame of suicide and allow others to speak without judgement.
So if you need others please reach out and if you see them reaching please take their hands, one day you might be in their place.