On Thursday 26th of April I gave my first public speech at an event that I had planned and hosted myself. The goal was to raise awareness of suicide as well to raise funds (A whooping £1800) for West Norfolk Mind. Below is the speech that I read and apparently caused many to cry – I hope this can get people thinking.
I would like to thank you all for being here and taking the time to talk about such an important yet taboo subject.
Suicide can affect all of us, though statistically speaking a scary three-quarters of all suicides are male, which begs the question as to why we are still forcing men to ‘man up’ rather than talk about their feelings.
My own father kept his mental health secret for 16 years, which I can only assume was, so we did not worry, he was that kind of person to put others needs above his own – which may have been his downfall.
In 2016, suicide rates dropped 3.4%. But to that I say that we can do better, as that is still 5,668 who people who have been let down by us as a nation and until that figure hits 0, we still have so much room improve and make changes.
The media likes to put a focus on that suicide is most common in teenagers and while we do lose far too many young souls to suicide, in the UK, most suicide victims are between 40 and 44. It is strange because as a young person myself, I rarely ever see the older generation talk about mental health and this makes me sad, it doesn’t matter what age you are, it’s ok not to be ok.
When I was younger, I did not understand the complexity of mental health or the pain of being suicidal, as it was only a reality in movies or on the TV – I was ignorant in truth. It had never really hit me as to how much a problem suicide was until I was a teenager.
I remember seeing a news article on a four-year old boy who had never come back in the house after playing in the garden, his mother found him; I couldn’t get my head around how someone so young could be hurting so much and how he had managed to hide it so well. I am not a parent yet but even I know that losing your child, no matter at what age, to suicide, would be the hardest thing in the world, in fact make that any loved one.
I am suicidal and the truth is, I didn’t wake up one day and decide that I wanted to end it all, it had just always been there. I had a fear of death so deep, I do even now but I’ve always thought that if I got hit by a car or fatally attacked, it wouldn’t be the worst thing.
Now I want to clear the air here and say that if someone is suicidal it doesn’t mean that they want to die, it’s so much more complicated than that. In brief, we want to live but not in the life we have.
Robin Williams ended his life shortly after my dad, I not only lost an idol, I also gained a man who’s face I would see and be reminded of my father, in many ways Robin acted and presented himself so similar to my daddy, they even had the same loving eyes.
Robin Williams once said, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that”.
This to me describes my dad perfectly and maybe I can only speak for myself but I agree, I could be on the verge of a suicide attempt and still drop everything to support anyone and stay with them till they have the strength to carry on. Wanting to die does not make me heartless.
My father was a strong man, in my whole life I only ever saw him cry once, that was when my mother had a stroke and he thought that he would lose her. He was so good at acting like he was ok, in fact I think a lot of us do, I am sure there are a lot of us in this room who have been hurting badly but still say will “Yeah I’m Fine”.
I still kick myself to this day that I didn’t have the slightest inkling of my father’s intentions, not even when he came into my room, sat close to me and told me I was the only one who understood him. I find it hard still to process that he felt that only his 18-year-old daughter could really know how he was feeling.
I came to the conclusion recently that it was not that I didn’t see the signs, I was just living in a bubble, a bubble that told me suicide would never affect me or those I love, it only affects people on the news or in media, right?
I could go on for hours and hours about how good a man my father was, but I know for those who knew him, I don’t even have to explain. Everyone who met him, loved him, he lit up the room with his charm and wit, his little quirky facts (he was rather eccentric) and his nurturing persona – he just really cared about people.
The strange thing is, that when his death was ruled as a suicide, I had people tell me that it was ok to be angry, then they would be shocked to hear that I wasn’t angry at all. You see, what I learnt about my dad was that he went through a lot, like me he had been through more than any one person deserves but he still pushed on for 49 long years.
If anything, I was filled with pride at his strength, the fact that he waited this long to try to end his life, yet my first attempt was at 14. I still miss my father every day but I know that he is at peace now, it’s just a shame it took death to give him that – which is why changes need to be made.
My dad served in the Falklands and Iraq, he was a long serving prison officer who managed to break the hearts of some of Norfolks inmates when he died. He had an ability to look past the cover of a person, he always knew there was more to it, he taught me that life was so much deeper than what it seems.
My dad contributed a book which shapes the young men and women who train to be Prison officers today, he was more than outstanding through everything he did. He was a loving husband and the best father anyone could ever hope for. And he was so much more to many other people in where in his life. He managed to live at least three lives in only 49 years, despite his struggles, he was not limited.
His wisdom courses through my mind and blood every day – for that I feel so proud to be hit little girl. It’s not just the nagging in my head that still tells me to take the empty toilet roll out of the bathroom or turn off the lights when I leave the room – save the planet and all of that.
It’s the wisdom that taught me that I cannot be happy if I seek a permanent feeling of happiness. It’s not possible, however what I should be doing is a lot more of what gives me little moments of happiness. This advice changed my thinking and has been so beneficial for my own mental health. Sometimes those with mental health are the people who can change the world, the thinkers.
You see, mental health affects us all in different ways but the only thing that really matters, isn’t anything other than the fact you woke up this morning, many don’t. It’s even better if you can brush your teeth and hair or even have a shower, any form of self-care, which is harder that it seems.
We need to get rid of this ideal that every person can jump out of bed and get ready to rush to work – not all of us can do that. Heck some of us cannot hold a job because it makes us relapse or become suicidal. Yet if you tell a doctor of a majority of people around you, they may call you a bum or lazy, which is simply not true – the only life we have the right to judge is our own.
We need to stop putting work in front of the people we care about, including ourselves. Are we really living if we do not actually live? A text only takes seconds and a call can be invaluable, most people who are suicidal will not tell people until they are encouraged or have the chance. Even if you think that none of your loved ones can be suicidal, how do you really know? Reach out.
I believe that every charity, business, family, friend, basically every person around the world can do better to themselves and do better to the ones they love.
There was a suicide attempt that landed me in hospital and it was the scariest experience of my life, a lot of people know this happened, some were supportive and others not so much. What a lot of people don’t know is that I called up many people that night, before I did anything. Because I didn’t want to do it but I was no longer in control of my actions.
No one answered. It is not anyone of those persons fault for my suicide attempt, it was no one’s fault but to me it was the universe telling me to do it. That no one cared, the biggest liars are often ourselves. I know that if one person answered and listened, I may never have done it as I would have had an outlet. One moment, one call, can save a life.
The point is that suicide is 99% preventable, it can be stopped, we can live a world where suicide is a thing of the past. A world where no more families must endure the pain that my family and so many other families have. Suicide is like a nuclear bomb that keeps going off.
As horrible as it sounds, since suicide is so preventable, why isn’t it being prevented? The answer I believe lies with every one of us. The more people who unite and fight against the stigma, the more we talk about what we need, means that we can create better support and treatment. We must take responsibility for forgetting the importance of really listening and reaching out. Something that becomes so hard as an adult, we all do it.
I am thankful that I failed my suicide attempt because now I have a lovely husband, a rather interesting cat and a dog which, well those who know her will know what I mean – still love her tho. I am doing what I love, I have been told I’ve saved lives but I could have easily succeeded in my death, if I did, I wouldn’t be advocating for mental health here tonight.
My father has missed out on walking me down the aisle, my brother’s graduation, my little brother going abroad. He’s going to miss out on grandchildren and precious memories that he always used to get excited about – he always gushed about the future.
So, to anyone here that feels like they are suicidal, please take me as living proof that things can change, they will change, life can be better.
To anyone who has lost a person to suicide, I know that it is so painful and lonely, but I will do everything in my power make it easier. Our loved one’s deaths are not in vain, they will help save the lives of so many others in their memory – like my father has tonight.
To all of you, I ask that you make more effort to make your workplace, your community and your home more mental health friendly. Reach out to people, talk and be supportive. Always remember, as bitter as it is, that suicide won’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone, even the ones you love.
We can end the stigma, we can prevent suicide if we fight it together. Always be kind, stop the bullying and hatred, start understanding and loving.
If I can give you any advice it’s that the best thing you can do is simply listen.
This speech, this charity ball, is just the start of a journey that I intend to keep travelling on until I know that mental health is no longer a stigma, so that we can all get support and treatment in a dignified and respected way.
Lastly, I want to thank you all again, especially to everyone who has donated and helped out tonight with this event. I hope you all enjoy the evening, the speeches, the auction and the music. I hope you leave this room with a different mindset a whole lot of strength.