Last Tuesday night I caught a really brilliant documentary on BB1 called ‘Life After Suicide’, it looked at how people coped after losing a loved one to suicide. It was really poignant and did a wonderful job at lifting the lid on suicide and grief.
One thing that was discussed was the level of guilt felt by people who worked in the mental health profession when friends, colleagues or loved ones took their own lives. I write a blog on mental health, but I still missed the signs when someone I cared about was thinking about ending their own life. After B died I really questioned myself and whether I wanted to continue writing this blog. I felt like a complete failure.
When you spend a good deal fo your time and effort on writing about and exploring mental health yet fail to notice when someone you know is in distress it makes you feel extremely guilty. I was so convinced that I’d be able to help anyone who needed it, that I’d spot it a mile off… and I didn’t.
Another problem that was explored was the fear of ‘normalising’ suicide by talking about it. I think it’s a very difficult and dangerous line to walk; on one hand we want to be open and honest about how a friend or family member has died- but we don’t want to put ideas into people’s heads. That’s why media reporting on suicide is so closely governed. This kind of thing can lead to copy-cat behaviour.
Dealing with any death is hard, but suicide has such a stigma attached to it. It makes me so angry sometimes, it almost feels like you’re not allowed to grieve for someone who has taken their own life. It feels like the world is carrying on and you can’t breathe. People don’t want to talk about it, because it scares and confuses them; so they don’t talk. They pretend that everything is still normal, when it’s not.
Trying to reconcile the person that you knew, with the person who took their own life, is hard. Sometimes it feels like they must be two separate people, because the person that you knew would never have done that. It’s one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever had.
People who’ve never been suicidal can’t understand what it feels like to say goodbye to loved ones. The pain isn’t numbed, when you know you’re going to kill yourself and you say goodbye to the people that you love you feel the pain of leaving them; but you also feel strongly that they’ll be better off without you, and possibly not even feel much grief at your death. It hurts so much to walk away from your family, knowing you won’t see them again.
Overall I can’t speak highly enough of this documentary. If you get a chance to watch it then please, please do. It’s the sort of thing that we should all be made to watch; suicide and mental illness will touch everyone at some point, it’s important that we try to break down the walls of shame and stigma that surround them.
In that vein, I think it was frustrating that the BBC chose to air this documentary at 10:30pm, when most people had gone to bed; why not put it at the popular 9pm slot? Too delicate? Too unsavoury? Stigma isn’t always obvious, but its frustrating that it even managed to touch something that tried to break it down.
’til next time,