A few years back my husband attempted suicide. Even writing the word suicide and saying it is still difficult and when it first happened I preferred to say ‘my husband tried to take his own life’. For some reason this felt more comfortable, and more socially acceptable. But I then realised that suicide is not a dirty word that should not be spoken about and we need to use this word more and stop the stigma that surrounds it. By sharing our story, I hope that more people realise that having mental health issues is not something to be ashamed of, and we need to be open and upfront with any family members, colleagues and friends if we see them struggling.
My husband is an average guy with a manual labour job, a wife, a daughter, a mortgage and a dog. He injured his eye and had to be operated on twice but lost his sight in his left eye. This was the beginning of a downward spiral. He really struggled with spatial awareness, doing simple tasks such as going up and down a kerb, taking change from a shop assistant, and just simply walking around. This impacted his confidence and the things he loved in life, such as driving became a chore which he had to endure. He then began to have problems at work and everything started to get on top of him. His mood changed, he was irritable and he was slipping in to a deep, dark place. He told me one night he felt he was invincible and since the injury he realised that he wasn’t invincible, which I think summed up how he was feeling overall.
We visited the GP who used a depression questionnaire which didn’t really flag as to how bad things had got with his mental health and when I tried to intervene and express my concern, I was told that next time he came for review to not attend with him. A few weeks later I received a call from my husband’s best friend to tell me that my husband had attempted suicide. At that point the world came crashing down around me but thankfully the attempt had been unsuccessful.
Although the attempted suicide caused a ripple effect throughout our family and life as we knew it-my husband is still here. This is why we are sharing our story as we have insight in to the reasons why my husband felt he could no longer go on. The main reason is he felt that he had got to a place where he felt that we would be better off without him. This is of course totally untrue.
On reflection you go through all the ‘what ifs?’ What if I had talked to him more about how he was feeling? What if I had openly asked the question of ‘are you thinking of suicide’? What if he had some trauma counselling following his accident so he could get help with how he was feeling? What if the doctor had been more aware and received training in mental health and suicide to ask the question and not use a questionnaire instead of having an open conversation?
My advice is, if you know of anyone who is struggling with their mental health, open a conversation with them and discuss any suicidal feelings. It is really important, especially in these tough times during the current pandemic, that we reach a point when this subject is no longer taboo. Allowing someone to express their feelings and talking to someone can really help. Also engage with relevant services to get the person the help that they need. If like us, you are turned away then keep banging at the doors until the help is given — it could quite literally save a life.
The following services offer confidential support from trained staff and volunteers. You can talk about anything that is troubling you, no matter how difficult:
- Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Samaritans are there to listen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and it’s always free to call from any landline or mobile phone.
- Call 111 to talk to NHS 24’s mental health hub.
- Call 0800 83 85 87 to talk to Breathing Space. The service is open 24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday — 6am Monday) and 6pm to 2am on weekdays (Monday — Thursday).
- Text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, text “YM” if you are under 19.