Sunday, 10 September 2017

World Suicide Prevention Day & My Story

2017 marks the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day. The day was first recognised in 2003, as an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and endorsed by the World Health Organization. World Suicide Prevention Day takes place each year on September 10.

Why is it important?

Every year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt. Behind these statistics are the individual stories of those who have, for many different reasons, questioned the value of their own lives.
Each one of these individuals is part of a community. Some may be well linked in to this community, and have a network of family, friends and work colleagues or school mates. Others may be less well connected, and some may be quite isolated. Regardless of the circumstances, communities have an important role to play in supporting those who are vulnerable.
This sentiment is reflected in the theme of the 2017 World Suicide Prevention Day: ‘Take a minute, change a life.’ As members of communities, it is our responsibility to look out for those who may be struggling, check in with them, and encourage them to tell their story in their own way and at their own pace. Offering a gentle word of support and listening in a non-judgemental way can make all the difference.
How you can help

Start a conversation today if you think a friend, colleague or family member may be struggling. You can also join The Samaritans on Twitter to spread the word.

Quote courtesy of The Samaritans-
When a person reaches a point where they are focused on taking their life, they’ve often lost sight of trying to find a way through their problems. This period usually only lasts a short while and often it doesn’t take a huge amount to bring someone back from that decision – something as simple as saying, ‘it's ok to talk’ can be enough to move someone out of suicidal crisis.

Sources of help

My story

Thirteen years ago I was a normal woman in her early twenties. I had a promising career and a good social life. Then sudden ill health meant this changed almost overnight. I could hardly leave my bed and relied on my parents for everything.

Perhaps understandably, this drastic deterioration of my physical health took a huge toll on my mental health. I didn't leave the house, I hardly left my room. I wouldn't speak to anyone in person or on the phone. I cut myself off from my friends and they gradually stopped calling. I can't blame them, it was totally my fault, I had isolated myself.

I refused to go out, even on days when I was physically able to. Even though I didn't want company, I felt lonely. My thoughts were confused and contradictory - if I couldn't understand them myself, how could I expect anyone else to understand them?

For the next four years my life spiralled downwards. Both my physical and mental health deteriorated. I wasn't getting help or answers with my physical health, which didn't help my mental health. I was on antidepressants, but they weren't helping. I thought only a cure for my chronic physical health condition would 'fix' my severe depression. My family tried to help, but they didn't know what to say to make me feel better. In truth there probably wasn't anything that could be said to make me feel better, but knowing they were there for me helped.

At this point I'd reached rock bottom and I was seriously considering suicide, to the point that I'd planned exactly how I would do it. The only thing that was stopping me was the thought of leaving my family behind, but I honestly don't know what would have happened if a scared, depressed little rescue dog hadn't entered my life.

Henry was a rescued English Springer Spaniel who we adopted in the summer of 2008.  Henry was abandoned by his previous owner, and was in very poor health.  Little did I know how much this neglected, sad, scared dog would change my life.

He was left in a house alone for several weeks while his owner worked at the other end of the country.  His neighbours rightly complained about this, as he made alot of noise when food etc. ran out, so the next time he had to go away he put Henry in boarding kennels - and never came back to collect him.

Henry was extremely underweight, had a matted urine stained coat, infected ears, sore skin and a sore nose.  He was also suffering from a severe stomach virus, which he nearly died from.  But worse than this was his mental health - he was scared of everything; hated doors closed in the house, was obsessed with food and couldn't be left alone.

I saw in Henry’s eyes some of the anxiety and fear that I also felt, he too had also lost his former life and was afraid what the future held.  We bonded instantly and I vowed to help him overcome his poor health.  Henry gave me a purpose to keep going, and saved me from a world of dark depression and saved my life.  Gradually Henry’s health improved and he became a happy and healthy dog.  I was proud of him and what he’d overcome.

Over the next few months Henry helped me when I was feeling low, and even managed to calm me down when I had panic attacks my nudging my hand and making me stroke him so I focused my attention on him.  I was proud of my handsome dog and started to take him out for walks using my mobility scooter.  If people came to talk to me I was happy to tell them all about my amazing dog, and didn’t feel the need to rush away.

Since then I've had ups and downs with my physical and mental health. There have been times this year that I've neared rock bottom again. I've struggled to come to terms with the fact that I'm now a full time wheelchair user and can't weight bear at all. Henry passed away in February and that also hit me hard, as did the sudden passing of our rescue dog Jessie.

I've had some scary thoughts over this last year, but my family, friends and dogs have got me through it. I still find it hard to ask for help, but I have discovered that talking does help - whether that's to a healthcare professional, a friend or even a pet!

Please don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

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