Speaking of Suicide

I’ve attempted to commit depression.

I’ve committed an eating disorder.

It doesn’t sound right, does it?

So why don’t we balk when we hear of committing suicide?

Suicide is an expression of profound hopelessness. It’s no longer a crime.

So why do we still approach the whole issue of suicide with suspicion and condemnation?

I will not pretend that the issue of suicide is something easy to talk about. It is painful and uncomfortable – but that doesn’t mean we should avoid it.

The scale of suicide means we cannot keep ignoring it. A World Health Organization report released earlier this month estimates that someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds, and for every person who dies – another 20 attempt suicide. Furthermore, suicide is the second leading cause of death (above murder and cancer) in 15-29 year olds.

Sometimes numbers can lose their meaning – we hear them and can hardly begin to imagine what it means in reality for those affected.

Millions of people who need, more than anything, something to hold onto. Hope.

Hope is not found in claiming that suicide is the unforgivable sin. It’s not found in telling people to pull themselves together, or banishing them from our churches.

It’s found in allowing people to give voice to their darkest and scariest thoughts.

The thoughts that provide both solace and devastation.

Solace, because it is a way to escape unimaginable pain.

We need to allow people to say the hardest words; because as unnatural as it may seem, speaking about suicide can actually help someone to avoid acting upon their feelings.

Let’s try to be more open in our communities, our schools, our churches, our families.

Silence is suicides’ greatest ally.

So let’s break the silence.

S.O.S

Today marks World Suicide Prevention Day.

It also marks the launch of our #SOScampaign.

We’d love you to get involved and you can do this in a number of ways.

1) Get tweeting! Use the has tags #wspd14 and #SOScampaign to join the conversation.

2) Get speaking! Let’s stop speaking about suicide as if it were a crime – instead of committing suicide – use phrases like “died by suicide” or “took their own life”.

3) Get booking! Let us come to speak to your church or youth group about suicide in a way that isn’t scary or depressing – but in a way which inspires hope. We’ll be looking at the scale of suicide, what the Bible has to say on suicide prevention in the life of Elijah and how we can bring  hope to people when they are at their most hopeless. Head over to our resources page for more information.

Silence is suicides’ greatest ally.

So let’s break the silence.

The Gift of Anxiety?

Anxiety is a good thing. It can save lives and propel us forward.

Seriously. Anxiety is a good thing.

But like all good things… it can get corrupted, and become a bad thing.

Anxiety is meant to help save our lives, to get us out of tricky situations.

Blood is pumped around our body faster, sweat so we can keep cool (and make us more slippery to catch), we breathe faster so we can get more oxygen into our lungs and we become hyper vigilant – hearing and seeing things in HD so we can be aware of our surroundings.

All of which are incredibly useful… if you’re anxious because you’re in a jungle about to be attacked by a lion.

Less useful, however, when you’re feeling anxious about a job interview or driving test.

Even less useful, when anxiety is provoked by a trip to the supermarket or the sight of a certain food.

Anxiety disorders are when anxiety is not needed “in order” to fly or fight. The purpose of anxiety is lost and what is left, can wreak havoc…

Imagine a life where the slightest thing causes you to go into meltdown. If when faced with a crowded supermarket, or picking up a trilling telephone causes your body to react as if you were faced with a tiger.

When anxiety becomes a disorder – it becomes a very unwelcome gift.

If there are people in your life who have the unwanted gift of an anxiety disorder, I thought I’d share three key things not to say, courtesy of this post.

1) Don’t tell people they’re being dramatic… panic attacks in particular can be dramatic- but it’s not an act – and they need comfort and calm; not condemnation.

2) What do you have to worry about? The truth is – we all have worries and anxieties, and belittling other people’s anxieties or reminding them of how good their life is helps no-one. Instead, try asking if they need to voice their worries.

3) Don’t panic… Telling someone with anxiety not to panic is akin to telling someone who is having an asthma attack to stop!

Anxiety can be a gift… but an anxiety disorder is never a gift… it’s an illness and it’s time it was treated like one!

Friend in Need? Depression Awareness Week Blog 2014

I used to feel quite sorry for my friends.

They’ve had a lot to put up with.

Depression ravages the best relationships. And it’s not just the obvious things.

Aside from the fact that I get very tired and sometimes disappear off the radar for a week or so every now and again – there are the unseen effects of depression.

Personally, one of the ways depression manifests itself in me is what the psychologists call “inappropriate or excessive guilt”.

Some of my friends actually banned me from apologising because it took up half of our conversations! At my darkest – I apologised for my very existence.

One of my favourite writers on mental illness (and you will know this because I quote her a lot in these blog posts!) Kay Redfield Jamison, writes

“Mental illness sabotages the best of relationships, and even in the most steadfast, generates an unrelating bone-weariness.”

It is not easy to be a friend to someone in the grips of depression.

They may flicker between wanting you there every minute of every day, to sending you away – claiming you’re too good for them.

What your friend really needs to know – is that you aren’t going to run a mile. Equally, you can’t be there 24 hours a day. It might be appropriate to ping them a text to see if there is anything they need… but less so to camp out in their house!

Listen to what your friend needs, don’t barge in with what you think they need.

Friends with depression might not be the easiest people to be around – but they’re still good friends – friends with the ‘flu might not be great company either, but they’re still good friends!

Friendship can’t cure depression… but it can make it a load easier to bear.

Guest Blog: A Mother’s Love – Mothering Sunday Special

She was a beautiful baby.  And so say all parents of their children!  But really, she was a beautiful baby.

To be honest it wasn’t a great start.  From the very first breath came problems with her health, and as one issue resolved or improved another seemed to take its place.  But these were physical problems, all thankfully treatable and eventually controlled to some degree, be it with time, or medication or both.

So as she grew it was perhaps understandable that she was a bit clingy, often reluctant to take part and always resistant to anything new.  She spent lots of time with other children, was taken along to places and put in situations where social skills could bloom; the constant prayer being that she would gain confidence and embrace life.  We tried ballet (dis-aaaa-ster!) and swimming (Mmmm…), theatre school (ok-ish) and trampoline (better!) and lots of activities based at the church we attended.

In some ways it appeared to work – she was lively and lovely and found her (singing) voice at an early age.  There she was on stage at school in the leading role of Mary and the ‘Littlest Angel’ singing her heart out, taking part in church productions, her small frame belying the huge and glorious voice that erupted from her often ineffective lungs when it came to simply breathing!

But then came the teenage years.  No, not drugs and alcohol and rock and roll.  Not staying out all hours.  Not shouting bitter words of recrimination at the restrictions of youth.  How I longed for those signs of teenage angst.  No, my beautiful baby was afflicted with an altogether darker, untameable malaise – depression.  A word does not even begin to encompass the width and depth and breadth of its meaning.

Watching your child fall into the abyss and not even want to climb out is soul destroying and unbearably painful.  Every time you think you avert one disaster, another potential tragedy lurks in the corner. You keep getting it wrong, you misread things, you make mistakes, you make errors of judgement. Oftentimes you feel an utter failure because she isn’t well and happy and ‘normal’.  Sometimes you cannot share it all with anyone else; the usual sources of comfort and support might not be possible for all manner of reasons – it can be very lonely.

But you never give up, you never relax, you never stop hoping, you never stop praying.  Because there is God.  God is there for you, even when you think he isn’t.  And God is there for her (or him), even when she (or he) doesn’t believe life is worth living.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out.  No easy answers and not always a happy ending.  But more often than not it does.  Maybe not always a fairytale ending – well, probably not ever a fairytale ending! -but slowly and surely the good days outnumber the bad and the bad days when they come, are a bit less bad.  She holds on to her faith.  She chooses life. You learn to breathe again – and more importantly, so does she.

She was a beautiful baby.  She is a beautiful young woman.

I thank God that I can write that last sentence in the present tense.  That she has come through the darkness of  those years and, together with her scars both inside and out, survived.  And not only survived, but blossomed and flourished and used her hard gained experience and wisdom to reach out to others so that they can access the kind of help that was not always available for her.  So that parents and friends and church leaders can access the kind of help that upholds and supports others like her.  Like me.

My beautiful baby is the founder of ThinkTwice.  She really was a beautiful baby.  She really is a beautiful young woman.  Thank you God.