Yesterday, tragically a woman in London lost her life at a tube station just before morning rush hour. Of course, this meant that the line was disrupted and many people’s day’s were disrupted as a result. This didn’t make national news (not being in London I have no idea if it made local news) and was it not for a few people on Twitter I may not have even heard about it.
The news aspect doesn’t surprise me, unfortunately a suicide doesn’t rate as newsworthy as sad and devastating as it is that someone has lost their lives to an illness in such a dramatic and terrifying way.
What did surprise me was the torrent of abuse which flooded the Twittersphere towards the dead woman. The lack of compassion for someone who had so obviously lost their battle with an awful illness. The fact that so few people considered her family who would be left behind questioning why things had got so bad, why she hadn’t reached out.
What I witnessed through the day only proved to horrify me at the level of stigma there actually is in this country as one person I follow on Twitter stood strong and battled against these awful comments.
Claire Greaves has consistently impressed me since I started following her. Had I possessed an iota of her conviction to change opinions and get well at her age I may well be in a very different place right now.
Yesterday she stood firm writing a blog post about compassion and confronting people who referred to the woman as selfish for resorting to suicide. From morning to night she took a torrent of abuse from people of all sexes and ages, some trolls probably looking for a fight some just normal people with really messed up views because this country has got its priorities all wrong when it comes to mental illness.
We will probably never know the name of the woman who died yesterday but Claire fought for her like she was her best friend.
I’ve been on the receiving end of abuse like she had yesterday and I know how hard it is to take. Damn, I went offline for six months and deleted all of my original social media accounts because it got so bad for me! I still haven’t and will never return to Facebook because of it.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve tried to end my life over the years, I’ve tried five times in the past twelve months. Luckily, life has another plan for me.
The thing is that, for me, I don’t have control over these attempts. I am very sick when I try to take my life. My brain is sick, and the compulsion to end my life is so strong that I have to do what my brain is telling me to do.
Over the years, I have learned strategies to combat this, I have learned to spot the triggers, the warning signs and to try and pick up the phone and ask for help before it’s too late. And, I am getting better at it.
Part of the problem is that the mental health services in this country are appalling at best. Getting help even in a crisis is like putting boiling water in a chocolate teapot. You may get someone on the phone but it’s not going to last and the chances of them talking you off the ledge before they hang up for their next call are slim. Before you know it the teapot has melted and it’s too late.
Within the NHS urgent cases have to wait weeks sometimes months to see a psychiatrist. After my most recent attempt I was sent home the same day and had to wait two weeks to get any long term medication. Instead I was kept on a high dose of addictive benzodiazepines for two weeks to keep me “out of it” so I wouldn’t do anything while I was waiting!
In the past I’ve had to wait up to 9 months to see a psychiatrist, having called for help, crying and desperate. How is this supposed to help someone on the edge of a mental cliff?
I saw people yesterday quoting God, religion, scriptures etc. now I was brought up in a fairly religious family and whilst I personally am more conflicted in my beliefs these days, there is a large section of my family who are Mormon and are very religious as a result. I am not the only person in my family who has Bipolar or who has mental health problems, we have Schizophrenic’s (which it is now believed I have aswell), Depressive’s, Agrophobic’s etc. My family is very large and spread around the world, but in being so we prove that mental health problems travel in families. The religious beliefs within our family don’t change who has or hasn’t been affected by mental illness and for some those beliefs help and for others they don’t. Either way, when the illness grips us, there is very little which stops us in our tracks bar medication and hospitalisation.
Suicide is scary, it terrifies me that one day I may die from an attempt and I will leave my Husband alone. I will leave my Niece without an Auntie. My Mum without a Daughter, and so on. I see the pain in the eyes of my family every time I hurt myself and it hurts me more than I can ever relate in words.
I wish I could control these suicide attempts, I wish I could turn off the voices in my head that tell me to do these things, I wish a lot of things when it comes to my mental health but I have learned that the best I can do is talk about it with those I love so they help me, take my medication, and work as hard as I can at therapy (when I finally get to the top of the list)!
I brought up my own experiences with suicide partly because of the above and partly because over the years I developed a way of explaining suicide to people who told me I was selfish for trying it.
Imagine someone was Diabetic, and hadn’t taken their insulin or eaten when they were supposed to, just been a bit lazy about their self-care. It happens, people get careless and they end up in hospital. Or, as Claire pointed out to me yesterday, that there were two-month waiting list for insulin. Imagine that person ended up in a diabetic coma. Sometimes, tragically they may pass away. Does it make them selfish because they forgot to do something to look after themselves? Or because they couldn’t access the right treatment in time? Of course it doesn’t. They were sick and their illness beat them.
Mental illness is just that, an illness just like diabetes is an illness. The only difference is that people with mental illness get stigmatised and punished for what happens to them as a result of their illness.
What Claire did yesterday standing up to all of those trolls, bully’s and misinformed people was truly admirable. She has her own demons to conquer yet she finds it important to defend someone who lost the fight with their demons. I can only respect, admire and be inspired by that.