When you’re weighed down by depression, chronic pain, anxiety or despair, it seems hard to believe that a better life is possible. But it is. Petrea writes about suicidal thoughts and what helps.
It started with just a few thoughts. Over time, my anxiety increased. I became more depressed and isolated. I gave up my favourite activities including sport, saw less and less of my friends, relied more on alcohol and had difficulty sleeping unless I was drunk. Even then, my sleep was not refreshing, and the depression was overwhelming as soon as I woke up.”
Eating was a struggle. Life had lost all flavour and interest for me. I felt like I was only going through the motions of my life and my ‘keeping up a front’ for everyone else just seemed too hard to continue. I felt they’d be better off without me. — Steve, aged 35
Steve describes so well how we can implode with the chaotic thoughts that lead us into the dark place of contemplating suicide. If you’ve ever thought about suicide then you’ll likely be familiar with the deep sense of hopelessness, of feeling trapped with no relief in sight, or of the unending exhaustion that can accompany such inner turmoil.
I’m sharing Steve’s story in the hope that it resonates and encourages people to seek help. Fortunately, Steve reached out for help – and he found the right resources to manage his inner turmoil more effectively, a skilled counsellor to walk beside him on his journey to recovery and the tools, skills and strategies that helped him find his path to a better life.
RECOVERY IS NOT EASY. BUT NEITHER IS SUICIDE
I watched my brother Brenden struggle with his mental health throughout his teen years and beyond. However, the devastating consequences our family experienced when he finally succeeded in taking his own life continue to echo down the decades for all of us that knew and loved him dearly.
I understand isolation, fear and despair as my diagnosis of leukaemia came just after Brenden’s suicide. I plummeted into a very dark place myself feeling enormous grief for Brenden but also a deep sense of shame and personal responsibility for his death. He had told me when we were both under 10 years of age that he knew he had to take his own life by the time he was 30.
Heaven knows why he felt that way but when he said those words to me, they filled me with dread and fear. I made a promise to myself then that Brenden’s survival was my responsibility and that I must watch over him always. At the age of 9, I thought the purpose of my life was to keep him safe. And I failed.
People who have thought about suicide say the most important thing to them is family, friends and colleagues who listen, show they care, and offer support. Always take someone’s words seriously if they tell you they feel suicidal. Always take yourself seriously if you are thinking about suicide – and reach out for help.
When you’re weighed down by depression, chronic pain, anxiety or despair, it seems hard to believe that a better life is possible. But it is.
MOST PEOPLE JUST WANT THE PAIN OF THEIR EXPERIENCE TO END
Suicide is so final, so irrevocable. It leaves a trail of broken hearts, unanswered questions, shattered dreams and decades of grief for the people left behind. They struggle to understand how their loved-one could possibly think that they’d be better off without them alive. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is help for people feeling suicidal. There is help for people made grief-stricken through a loved-one’s suicide. We need safe, nurturing spaces, free of judgement, where people can unravel themselves a little and find practical skills, tools and strategies to begin the journey towards healing and peace.
Reach out. You will find a listening heart.
WARNING SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR
A person who is thinking about suicide normally provides some early signs or warnings. These are just some of the things to look out for in others, but by no means is this list exhaustive:
- Dramatic behavioural changes and mood swings
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Engaging in risky or harmful activities
- Thinking that people would be better off without them
- Losing interest in their appearance
- A sense of hopelessness or despair
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Frequently talking about death
- Putting affairs in order or making funeral arrangements
If you think there’s a high risk of a person dying by suicide before they can get the appropriate professional help, call the person’s doctor, a mental health crisis service or phone 000 and say that the person’s life is at risk. Do not leave them alone, unless you are concerned for your own safety.
If the person agrees, you could go together to the local hospital emergency department.
The person’s doctor or acute care team can provide a range of options for treating and managing mental health issues. The emergency department at their local hospital will also be able to help them.
24-HOUR HELP, SUPPORT AND ADVICE:
- Lifeline — 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline — 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service — 1300 659 467
- MensLine Australia — 1300 78 99 78
HOW QUEST FOR LIFE CAN HELP
Quest for Life if not a crisis centre. If you need immediate help, see the Crisis contacts above.
It’s common to feel as though you’ll never be happy or hopeful again. But with support and self-help tools, strategies and skills, most people who’ve felt suicidal go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.