What do you do if someone you care about feels suicidal? A simple question on the face of it. You protect them. You make sure they aren’t left alone. You limit access to anything they could use to do themselves harm.
But it’s not that simple.
How do you ensure they are accompanied 24/7 and what happens when suicidal ideation extends beyond a few days or a few weeks. It’s not sustainable and there will always be gaps – a toilet break, an implicit handover (where the person taking over is late), privacy for bathing, sleep.
How do you ensure that there are no items in a dwelling that could be used for fatal self harm.
If you wanted to be absolutely sure then the only answer is a straight jacket in a padded cell with a bit between the teeth. That isn’t sustainable either, eventually they’d have to make room for someone else.
So you do your best and hope for the best. In extreme cases tranquillisers and hospitalisation can be used as a last resort. But fundamentally there is no fool proof way to protect someone from themselves.
I’ve had either my fiancée, mother or sister with me 90% of the time over the last month. More than anything it has been comforting to have the company of the most important women in my life as my mood has shifted between positive and negative states. Throughout I have been quite aware that if I reached crisis point it would be sheer bad luck, yet quite possible, for it to occur when unobserved.
Ultimately my life is my responsibility, no one else’s.
What does frustrate me is seeing others with mental health issues who either have no access to adequate family or NHS support, and those who have simply been abandoned, forgotten or missed.
I remember when I was a teenager that I often saw a disheveled middle aged man of Carribean descent roaming the streets where I lived in a clear state of distress. I saw that same man for at least five years behaving the same way and he always looked like he was unable to take care of himself. I don’t know whether he had nursing care or not and there was rumour that he’d witnessed his wife and children die in a house fire. Maybe he could never have recovered from that, but I have found myself thinking of him from time to time and I’ve always wondered whether he ever received adequate psychiatric support.
A friend of a friend lives in the countryside where NHS resources are very thin on the ground. She is struggling, unable to work and receiving benefits. She feels suicidal all the time, has no family to help and inadequate care through local services. My friend is quite reasonably concerned. I doubt I would have the strength to carry on in her predicament.
What upsets me are those who are offered help and reject it. I agree that offered help may not work, or may not work immediately, but if there is a clearly identified issue that needs assessment, support, treatment or therapy then all help should be accepted, if only to do justice for those who go without.
I myself have been dealing with various issues since the age of seven or eight, and even though I’ve taken every bit of help I have been given, it has only been over the last six months that I have received diagnoses and a direction for treatment. Even then the treatment I need is not freely available. So those without the means have to suffer, or wait months or years for a place on the very few courses available on the NHS.
It has seemed to me that the NHS and by extension Whitehall and the government are prepared to waste years of someone’s life on costly medication and inappropriate therapy rather than focus on accurate diagnoses and the most appropriate therapeutic treatment.
How many people are out there living awful, miserable lives that could have been so different for the sake of the right help.
How much money has been lost by business, government and the economy to poorly treated or untreated psychiatric issues.
I’m beginning to think that all schools should start the day with sessions of mindfulness and meditation. Teach children that life isn’t about being better or having more. Teach children that their emotions are dictated by how they respond to events.
Maybe if children can grow up without being dominated by consumerism and social pressures then perhaps it wouldn’t matter how ineffectual the government is.
Perhaps the world would be a nicer place.
Not peace and love and hippy ideals, but sensible, responsible, respect for each other, our environment and ourselves.