Post 17 – Taboo

It’s been a low week, which I’ll try to explain why, which will lead onto a topic that isn’t talked about as much as it ought to be. Hence the post title, it’s not a delayed review of the slightly odd, but riveting TV drama starring Tom Hardy. So why a low week? Through a few things:

  • really poor sleep, mainly by the medication leg dancing thing being really bad…in fact so bad for the second time in two weeks I danced myself out of bed. (My wife, upon waking “What was that noise?”…from the floor “That would be me then”.)
  • poor sleep opens the door for depression, it means my energy goes down and I stop/reduce, even though I know it won’t help, many of the good behaviours (meditation is harder, Harry and the rat get more playtime). It’s the weird thing with depression, it gets in the way of the daily things which can help…but then sometimes just getting through the day is enough.
  • the death through suicide of the Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington.

Let me explain that last point. I didn’t know Chester. I liked a lot of the Linkin Park songs, Hybrid Theory and Meteora are brilliant albums. Maybe the lyrics meant something to the part of me that I hadn’t really accepted at that time. But why does his death resonate with me?

Every 40 seconds someone across the world dies through suicide (statistics from the W.H.O.) . Just think about that. In the few minutes it will take to read this post 3 or 4 lives will have ended through suicide.

And in the UK, it’s the leading cause of death in men under 45. Okay I am just outside of that demographic now, but middle aged men are high risk age group. And yes I have personal experience. That isn’t meant to shock, I hope by the end of this post I can give you an inkling of the thought process, to perhaps help understand a little more.

Despite it being one the leading causes of death it’s a taboo subject to many.

There are religious, legal and society reasons for that, which were reflected in horrendous comments made via social media after the death of Chester. Some stated that he would spend an eternal afterlife of damnation, some stated that he was selfish and didn’t care for his wife and children.

Until recently in many parts of the world it was a crime. There are some parts where it still is. It’s probably a hangover from the illegality, but why is it referred to as ‘committing suicide’? Committing is an outdated and judgemental phrase. Let’s just say ‘died by suicide’, as we would with other illness’s. The words around suicide in both media reporting and social media should be carefully used, to not only help tackle the stigma but also to address any misguided glorification or romanticism around suicide.

To believe in an eternity of damnation would suggest a religious view. Making a statement of condemnation doesn’t feel very compassionate and respectful, which is surely at the heart of most religions? What happened to understanding and empathy with someone in so much pain and suffering that they believe that all that remains is this one solution ?

To look upon this as a selfish act is missing one of the key lies of depression. That is the belief, so fervently held, that everyone would be so much better off if you weren’t around. If you can’t love yourself, when every part of you is telling you that everything you do is wrong, that you are bringing everybody else down from their happy lives, then why wouldn’t you believe that? Suicide is often seen as an irrational act. I would argue that, in some cases, it’s highly rational IN THE MIND OF THE PERSON AT THAT POINT. They are doing this to help others and because they cannot see any solution to their problems and pain. It doesn’t matter if you have support around you, as sadly you can interpret yourself as being a burden to that support.

As part of my depression I have had suicidal ideation off and on. Its very common – and to learn that fact goes a long way to help. There are levels of suicide thinking, from occasional thoughts through to full planning and then carrying out. I never went further than thoughts, which were frightening and convincing. A turning point was when I finally realised that this was the greatest illusion depression was telling me. At that point I could make the decision to not listen to that illusion, which sadly Chester and many more haven’t been able to do.

“Selfishly one of the reasons I hate hearing about suicide is because it makes me feel more vulnerable. More mortal.” Matt Haig

I will never know what was in Chester’s mind. But this is the thing – post an event like his death allows an echo of that feeling to rise up. Not thoughts, more an inkling of sad understanding of what might drive someone to that conclusion. It really isn’t the answer but at that moment it can be very hard to see differently. It can also be incredible hard to reach out for help then too – why would you be more of a burden or a failure, especially with the stigma around the act

I am sharing this, my personal experience and view, to help raise awareness and understanding in whatever small way I can. Others will have different experiences and anyone who feels in any way suicidal should seek help and talk to someone. A friend, family member or one of the many charities who offer phone line and on-line channels of support. No-one will judge you, laugh at you or criticise you more than you do to yourself.

We ought to be able to have open conversations around mental health, including suicide, backed by appropriate and timely support to identify and provide earlier intervention to help prevent anyone reaching that point. Many of the deaths are preventable. There is one life, one chance. It really is a beautiful world.

It would seem appropriate to end on a Linkin Park song. I always liked Crawling, this link [https://youtu.be/Hjg-9JHfDdM] is an acoustic version, very different from the album and really shows the fragile edge to the lyrics, echoing in Chester’s voice.

Chris

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