Suicide — How To Spot the Signs
And How To Get Help
Whilst we recognise that ME is a very real physical illness, its devastating effects on the quality of our lives can, not surprisingly, lead to episodes of despair and depression, however positive we may try to be, and this experience is not uncommon for those suffering from chronic illness. This kind of depression is termed as secondary depression, as it is preceded or runs parallel to an incapacitating illness.
Of course, some of us may have already experienced depression at some times in our past for all sorts of reasons, but the effect is the same — you wake up in the morning and dread having to face another day.
Inevitably, if we are feeling very low and hit rock bottom, we may find ourselves having thoughts of suicide — what they call ‘suicidal ideation’ in psycho-speak. We may not even be depressed — it may be a reaction to a life-changing event — but for someone undergoing unbearable suffering in mind, body or spirit, suicide seems like a rational and straightforward solution. However, for the majority of people it is a shocking course of action that runs contrary to our most basic human instinct: that of self-preservation.
Suicide is one of the last taboos of modern society. People are uncomfortable or embarrassed talking about something that is ‘wrong’ and, perhaps, which reminds them of their own mortality; those who feel suicidal are ashamed of their emotional or mental state and are afraid of being judged. For all parties, there is the unsettling sense of loss of control, with the result that the problem gets swept under the carpet, avoided, left to the ‘professionals’ who are often unable to respond within a desirable time-scale or are restricted by the protocols under which they operate. I believe that if we are more open about these feelings, it will help to remove some of the surrounding stigma and taboo, and ultimately save lives.
Here are some practical tips about what to do in a crisis if you or someone else is at risk.
Thinking About Suicide?
You are not alone: Other people have had these feelings and have come through.
Feelings are temporary: However intense they are, they will eventually pass.
Someone out there cares: And wants to listen. Please reach out.
Keep yourself safe: Try not to act on your thoughts. What can you do or where can you be to feel safer?
Think about the consequences: How might your actions affect your friends or family?
Seek help: GPs, A & E, helplines, counsellors, friends, websites, even an app (see list below).
Have a safety plan in place: If you think you may be at risk it will be helpful to be aware of resources that you can use in a crisis.
Remember: Someone out there cares — and it may not always be who you think!
Worried About Someone Else?
Be alert for warning signs: Someone thinking of suicide may not always talk about it.
Be honest: Raise the subject directly with someone if you are concerned about him or her.
Listen: Without judgement, advice or criticism. This is one of the most important things you can do to help. Stay calm, reassure, empathise, accept and show that you care. Do not lecture, analyse, trivialise, tell someone to cheer up, or use the words ‘should’, ‘shouldn’t’, ‘must’, ‘mustn’t’ as this will be experienced as criticism, rejection and not being heard. Be patient, show that you are listening and give your full attention. Respect the person’s feelings.
Keep in touch: A short e-mail, text, note, card or phone call will mean a huge amount.
Encourage the person concerned to seek further support: Or offer to assist in finding it.
Don’t panic: Do not call emergency services unless absolutely necessary. This could be a terrible ordeal for someone with ME and may deter him or her from confiding in someone in the future.
Seek support yourself: Talk to a friend or professional if this would be helpful.
Remember: One of the worst things you can do is nothing!
And please: Ask someone else to get in touch if you are not able to.
Telephone Numbers in Emergency
Samaritans: 116 123, free 24 hours (also email service: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Saneline: 0845 767 8000, 6pm–11pm.
ME Association helpline: 0844 576 5326 (10.00am–12.00, 2.00–4.00pm, 7.00–9.00pm).
Further Useful Resources
Stay Alive app: an award-winning suicide prevention pocket resource downloadable from iTunes or Googleplay.
Grassroots Suicide Prevention: under Resources at www.prevent-suicide.org.uk
Befrienders Worldwide: www.befrienders.org/suicidal-feelings
Mind: www.mind.org.uk — ideas for planning in a crisis.
Mind, Kingston: www.mindinkingston.org.uk
Telephone: 020 8255 3939 — counselling.
Mind, Richmond: www.rbmind.org, telephone: 07592 416 638 — counselling.