Beyond suicide – sending a letter into the ether

Yellow funeral rose

Danny, I haven’t blogged in a while, but today is a special occasion: it would’ve been your 35th birthday. I’m sorry that I haven’t written sooner, but it’s been a weird time. I had to report someone missing before Christmas, just like I did for Kai back in 2001. It was traumatic, but also I recognised how much better I manage my inner balance now.

You can’t always spot when someone is considering suicide (I should know, because you sure didn’t give us clues), but there are some warning signs I was taught to look out for through mental health training.

Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns; giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there is no other logical explanation for doing this; saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again; developing personality changes. I observed these signs, plus some more.

Unlike with Kai, after a fortnight of trauma, this particular story had a happy (ish) ending for their loved ones. The individual is still around to tell their tale.

Enough about them. This blog is about you. And Kai. And all the others who were in such a dark place that they felt that there was no other way but to leave. It’s also for the people left behind. There’s always a way, Danny. You were both so bright and so proud. Perhaps that’s why you didn’t speak up? I wish you had. Maybe there was nothing I could have said or done in the end, but at least you would’ve known how much you were loved, by so many.

I can’t forget how I heard. It was the day after my birthday (wait until I see you in the ether, you’re in BIG trouble). I’d just got back from a trip away. Our friend, the one who found you, called me. “Are you home?” “Yes, why?” “Would you come over?” Intuition kicked in and I drove over immediately, although I later learned he was still at the police station when he called.

Bereavement and the highs and lows of social media

I don’t want to talk about how raw that night was, but I do want to talk about the blessing and the curse that is Facebook. We spent the next 48 hours in ‘control and command’ mode, parking our own emotions to inform as many friends as possible before the news leaked onto social media.

Your page now serves as a kind of memory sharing bank for family and friends. It’s a comforting place for many, but not all, of us. Facebook’s Memory Hop feature can be a lovely, nostalgic thing; on the other hand it can share old posts you would rather remain hidden.

When I eventually sought bereavement counselling (from Cruse) three months later, it was because all the emotions I’d suppressed following Kai’s death ten years previously hit me many over when I was finally ready to confront my feelings.

At the start of my third visit, my counsellor said to me “You’re trained in all of this [mental health], you know what’s going on… Do you know what your problem is, Anj?” I was taken aback, as I’m sure that isn’t a counsellor’s usual approach, so I simply replied “What?”

“Your problem is CONTROL. You’re such an organised person that you’re struggling because these events were out of your control.” I looked at him, mouth agape. Then I recovered. “You’re right. Thanks, bye!” And off I went, on a journey to release control, be more in the flow and do as much as I could to help others in a similar position.

Influencing decision-makers

Part of this journey was to be invited by the National Suicide Prevention Alliance to write the foreword for Public Health England guidance on local suicide prevention services. It’s called ‘Support after Suicide: A guide to providing local services,’ and boy is it needed.

Since you always were blessed (even if you didn’t see it yourself), the guidance was released yesterday, within your birthday week, even though I wrote my piece some months ago. I received a letter of thanks from Public Health England last night, on a posh letterhead and everything. I especially miss you on milestones such as birthdays, so thanks for that little intervention to make me smile.

Love you,

Anj x

Suicide prevention – seeking help

If you’re concerned that a loved one is thinking about taking their life, don’t worry about asking them about it. Talking to them won’t make them act.

As an individual, you’re not expected to make a judgement call. It is up to experts to do this. Your responsibility is to report it to a trained professional and let them decide on the most appropriate course of action. This can include the police and charities such as CALM (call 0800 58 58 58) or The Samaritans (call 24 hours a day on 116 123 in the UK).

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