As I sit here and write this, I find it hard to fathom the thought of wanting to end my own life.
I’ve just returned to work after my summer holiday. I’m feeling energised and optimistic.
Yet I know from previous experience that suicidal feelings can rear their ugly head at any time.
When I start to feel suicidal, my world turns upside down.
I often compare it to a physical injury, like breaking a bone in your body.
If one breaks a bone, the intensity of pain is all consuming for the individual.
For me personally, this is no different to what happens when my thoughts turn to suicide. My mind is so unbearably painful that removing myself from this existence becomes my only solution.
I know that for some reading the last paragraph this may seem entirely irrational.
However, I know that if I had a physical health crisis, such as breaking a bone, suffering a stroke or enduring a heart attack, it would be treated extremely differently to a mental health crisis like experiencing suicidal ideation.
Even the very term “suicide” scares many of us to the point where we would rather avoid the subject altogether instead.
Avoidance, though, is costing the lives of too many women and men in our society. Every 40 seconds someone around the world takes their own life.
Whilst the numbers of people who end their own lives may be difficult to comprehend, the impact it has upon family and friends is even more difficult to imagine.
Bereavement by suicide is an area that is just as taboo as suicide itself. I will never forget the moment a young woman came up to me after a talk I gave at a school in Grimsby last year. She immediately burst into tears and eventually told me that she had lost her Father to suicide at the age of 9, but that she had never been allowed to talk about what had happened because of the way in which he died. Finally, she felt immense relief to be able to speak about it.
The shame associated with suicide, whether it be by the individual who is feeling suicidal, or by the loved ones of a person who has taken their own life, must stop if we really want to curb the rate of suicide.
In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a distinct change in the way we address mental health. Finally, the stigma attached to it is shifting, as more and more of us are becoming open to talking about it.
I truly hope the fear and unease that surrounds the conversation of suicide will also subside. In many ways, it feels like the last taboo. We have seen society start to address everything from AIDS to cancer to FGM in the last few decades. But suicide remains a silent killer, particularly amongst men.
The truth is that suicide is preventable. I don’t believe we hear this often enough.
Neither do I consider that we realise how common suicidal ideation is.
Since I began talking publicly about my own experiences, I have been stunned by the amount of people who have told me that they have experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings, or attempted to take their own life.
The next time my own mind turns toward the notion of suicide, I don’t want to hide it. I want to be able to tell someone what I am experiencing, just as normally as I would if had a bad back or a stomach ache.
We must all work together to make a conversation about suicide finally acceptable, not just during upcoming World Suicide Prevention Day on 10th September, but for the other 364 days of the year as well.
I am uncertain of much in life, but I feel sure that we can reduce the tragic rate of suicide we currently see.
NOTE FROM THE EDITORS: We are incredibly excited to have Jonny Benjamin MBE writing for InSPIre the Mind. Jonny is an incredibly inspiring (and award-winning!) mental health campaigner, film producer, public speaker, writer and vlogger. Beginning by talking of his own experiences on Youtube, Jonny is now a prominent mental health campaigner using his voice to help educate and break stigma. Jonny has produced documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4 on mental health and suicide and has launched social media campaigns with Rethink Mental Illness, a successful mental health programme for schools called ThinkWell, has written a book entitled ‘The Stranger on the Bridge: My Journey from Suicidal Despair to Hope’ and has most recently launched a new charity, Beyond Shame Beyond Stigma.
It is a real honour that Jonny was happy to share his voice on our platform and to share such an important message — thank you Jonny!
For more information on World Suicide Prevention day which is on the 10th September visit: https://www.iasp.info/wspd2019/.