World Suicide Prevention Day 2014
Hey guys, Kate here. I’m this year’s Disability and Mental Health Rep at my University so I wrote this article for our Students' Union blog and I just wanted to take a little time to share it here too and to tell you that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. The World Health Organisation considers suicide a global issue and suggests that part of its international plans to combat it include more awareness and understanding of the problem.1 A little bit of this article is specific to my University but most of it is sound advice that everyone should read and consider.
All very interesting, I hear you say, possibly sarcastically. So let’s get serious for a second. When you come to University, a lot of us get told to stay away from drink, drugs, promiscuous sex, darkly lit parts of the city, strangers… the list of perceived dangers is seemingly endless and people love to warn you about them… but suicide is the number one cause of death for those between 20-34 years old.2 That’s not exclusive to students but it means that we are in the age bracket of those at the highest risk.
Suicide accounted for 26% of male and 13% of female deaths in the UK in 2012.2 Not only that but it made up 1.4% of all deaths worldwide and it is the 15th leading cause of death globally.
So those are the facts: they are the kind of stats people throw at you when talking about mental health but it takes a fair bit of time to actually find the original data and check it for yourself (I should know, I just did it for this article!)
But the facts don’t tell the full story. Suicide and suicidal thoughts are so dangerous because they are very often combined with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. More often than not the person affected by these issues feels unable to communicate about them. A 2012 article in America suggested that 75% of students didn’t seek help for a mental health issue3 – and that in itself has become part of the problem.
Everyone experiences these things differently, all I can do is provide the data (above) and my personal experiences to try and illustrate the problem. I have a wide spectrum of mental health disorders (which I’m willing to talk about if it would help you: get in touch!) and in the past ten years I have lived with suicidal thoughts at least several times a week. For long periods of that time it was every minute of every day. I’ve attempted suicide almost fifty times in the past decade, and I know my behaviours and warning signs.
Last year, however, when my anxiety disorder stopped me from communicating with my lecturer about a missed deadline and the fear of failing the year due to my mental health grasped me, I panicked – and despite having the support network of the University, my friends and family and to a lesser degree the mental health services, I felt like I had no where to go. I attempted suicide again and told no one.
The next day I woke up and thought about trying again but managed to persuade myself to keep going for another few days so I wouldn’t miss a vital society social. After those few days had passed, my suicidal thoughts went from extreme back down to my normal background noise level and I was able to finish the essay, finish the year, and keep living.
I’m just one person and my story is by no means the same as anyone else’s. Most people who experience a suicidal episode recover and go on to live happy lives without the looming threat of suicide. (So that’s good news!) It is, however, an unfortunate fact that the risk of suicide increases in those diagnosed with mental health disorders. The risk is 4% in people with mood disorders, 7% in people with alcohol dependency issues, 8% in people with bipolar disorder, 5% with schizophrenics and those with multiple disorders have significantly higher risks again.1
THE ISSUE FOR STUDENTS
Being a Uni student is stressful. A lot of us move away from homes, cities, families. The friends and environment we know and feel safe in. We are expected to work more independently academically whilst running our own households often for the first time. We meet and live with new people and deal with new types of conflicts. We are away from the GP or mental health services we are familiar with. We deal with debt – 49% of calls to the Samaritans in 2012 involved worries about finances.5 We deal with some of the biggest stressors and we deal with them all at once away from our old support networks.
Whilst you forge new friendships and find new ways to deal with stress and conflict, warning signs often get missed because the people around you haven’t necessarily known you long enough to tell if you act differently. They might miss warning signs like depression, social isolation, substance abuses, and sudden changes in mood or behaviour or suicidal thoughts or preoccupation with death. Keeping an eye on your own changes in behaviour and thought patterns can be hard, but is important. To recognise when you don’t feel right and when to seek help is a huge step in not letting yourself get stuck in self-destructive patterns. You can also look for these warning signs in others and try and keep open communication with people you think might be at risk.
SO, WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
At our University there are many places to get help. The first place to look is in your support network. That’s your family, friends, anyone who you think you might be able to open up to – but that’s not always practical or possible. There are alternatives available.
– You know yourself pretty well. If you need a break, take one. If you need to self-motivate yourself out of a rut, try to. It’s by no means a sign of weakness to not be able to get better by yourself but you are the most important person in your recovery. So whilst you contact others for their help, think about what you can do to treat yourself better and take steps to do that.
– Uh, kinda. I can’t help students with their personal problems directly, as I don’t have the training but if you feel like your mental health is affecting your academic life, I might be able to point you in the direction of someone who can give you advice on how to work through it. I can also listen to any concerns you have that aren’t addressed within the University so far and, if necessary, take them to the Students Union (with or without your name involved) to propose changes.
GPS / LOCAL MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
– Your doctor can talk to you about stress, depression, or just feeling a bit overwhelmed. Wherever you are on the spectrum, DON’T be afraid to ask for help. That’s what they are here for. There is a GP on campus at least once a week and you can register with them at any time through Student Support, these GPs come from a local GP centre which you can visit through the rest of the week if you need to, so it’s all conveniently close by. To find out what you can expect from your mental health services you can go to www.thesite.org/mental-health/…
– Speaking of, Student Support is a great resource for helping you get back on your feet. They have counsellors, money advisors, substance abuse advisors, eating disorder counsellors, mental health advisors and some generally lovely people who will make you a cuppa and listen. If you feel like you need help, whether its to do with Uni or not, this is a great place to go because if they feel like they aren’t helping you enough they usually know someone who can because they deal with things like this every day. For FAQ about counselling in general go to www.thesite.org/mental-health/…
– For example, Youth Access provides young people with advice and counselling services, and if you call them they will try and connect you up to a counsellor in your area. Call 020 8772 9900. Your GP can also try and help source outside counselling for you should you need it.
HELPLINES & CHARITIES
– MIND offers advocacy specifically for mental health. That means they can speak on your behalf in times of need. That can be to your GP, to your University or for legal reasons. Contact them if you aren’t sure.
These two helplines are great for talking and getting through a dark period. nightline.ac.uk/
– A&E departments often have a duty psychologist working who can talk to you and work out your needs. All too often I hear people saying, “I didn’t go because I didn’t think I was urgent enough to waste their time.” Just go! That’s what they are there for and no one thinks it’s a waste of time to save someone in distress… It’s also important to try not to feel guilty or ashamed. There are policies in place to make sure that people admitted to hospital for suicide or self-harm receive the same respect and care as everyone else.4
– If you can’t source the help you need with all of these people’s help, you might want to consider looking for private help. The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy website lists credible therapists. Some offer low-cost therapy depending on your circumstances, so don’t be afraid to call up and tell them you are a student. Most places will give you a free first session so you can see if you are compatible with the therapist. They are all different so if you don’t gel with the first one don’t assume that therapy can’t help you.
There are so many places to seek help from and we all need a little help sometimes. This University and the Students’ Union are committed to trying to help students get through issues like this. Remember you are not alone. You are surrounded by fellow students like me who might have felt something that you’ve felt or had a thought you thought no one else ever had. The best way to deal with depression, anxiety, stress or suicide is to talk.
So today, right now, having read this behemoth of an article, why not share it on Facebook along with something true from yourself. Because you never know who you might help by opening yourself up to talk truthfully about how you feel.
Stay strong all and have a mindful and safe Suicide Prevention Day.1
Source: diverseeducation.com/article/5… 4