World Mental Health Day – Changing the Narrative on Suicide


[CW: Suicide, Mental Illness. It is advised that if you do not read this blog post have recently been affected by suicide]

Today is World Mental Health Day and 1 in 4 of us will be affected in any one year.

Our stall where students can get help and advice

Our stall where students could get help and advice

Every year we aim to break down barriers and reduce the stigma in talking about mental health, suicide, how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about mental health in general.

Take a Note, Leave a Note

Take a Note, Leave a Note

In the spirit of all of my past blogs, I want to lead by example and talk about how I feel. Recently I attended a student’s funeral. A student who had died by suicide. This was the first time I had been to a student’s funeral and I hope it will be the last.  As the coffin came out of the chapel I had an oddly surreal out of body experience.

It was like I was floating above the procession, looking down. I could see everything that was happening below me. I’m quite a spiritual person and it might not be for everyone, but I like to think the spirit of the student who had died was trying to show me something. A strong poignant message.

I will never forget.

The impact of suicide is sudden and unexpected, it leaves no time to prepare for the emotions that follow. Whether you have lost a family member, friend, work colleague or fellow student – shock, disbelief and denial can be common symptoms. It doesn’t even seem real does it?

Because suicide leaves us feeling powerless, we blame others or ourselves. We believe someone should have done more, institutions and medical facilities need more, that this shouldn’t be happening. And it’s true, we need more funding, support and initiatives across the board, but what happens when someone doesn’t reach out for help?

When I was 16, a friend of mine completed suicide. I never saw it coming. Afterwards there was a lot of fear in the school and community. There can often be a lot of fear and stigma around suicide, especially in schools or colleges. More specifically if a young person has died. It’s a gut reaction to not talk about it or avoid talking about it. The fear of talking about it and making it real, that maybe if we start talking about it more often, it may encourage others to do it too. This isn’t how we should be talking about suicide and mental health. This isn’t how I want to talk about suicide and mental health.

I’m afraid to even write this blog post which, in itself, shows the problem.

We say time and time again that we need to start talking differently about mental health and suicide. By now the mainstream conversation seems to be going in the right direction, but why are suicide rates still on the rise? Maybe what we are doing isn’t working? Maybe people ARE talking and others aren’t listening or don’t know how to listen.

Recently I have been very reflective of what we are doing in the Students’ Union and the University to tackle issues surrounding mental health. I feel like it’s time for change. It’s time to try something new. What that is, I’m not completely sure yet but I know it starts with a shift in narrative. One that starts with this blog post.

There are many things that can and NEED to be done to help, but amongst the workshops and campaigns there is a responsibility for us all, to not be afraid.

Kind notes left by our lovely students

Kind notes left by our lovely students

If anything in this blog post has affected you, you feel suicidal yourself or are concerned about someone else, you talk to someone at any of the services below:

  • Samaritans: 116 123 (24/7 free)
  • Lifeline: 0808 808 8000 (24/7 free)
  • Care call: 0808 800 0016 (24/7 free)
  • Cruse bereavement care: 0808 808 1677
  • Your own GP: If you can’t get a same day appointment you can advise the receptionist in confidence that you are concerned about your mental health and ask that a Doctor rings you back
  • Out of Hours: Thoughts of suicide are a medical emergency and you or someone you are concerned about should seek assistance from your local hospital Accident and Emergency department

If you don’t feel ready to talk to someone, here’s a great guide on emotions of grief after a death that may have been caused by suicide.

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