How to notice suicidal thoughts in others

When you’re younger, you hear the word suicide thrown around, but you can’t ever imagine being in a situation where it affects you. It seems like something too horrible and surreal. My personal experience with suicide doesn’t involve my own actions but those of an ex. Luckily, he is still with us today, but I now know and understand that I am a very fortunate person in my upbringing; I’ve always had support and people to turn to when things got bad. For Finn (name has been changed) it was completely the opposite.

When I first met him, he was depressed, an alcoholic and a paranoid schizophrenic with psychotic tendencies. That was five years ago, and even before then, he had attempted to take his own life multiple times. The most serious attempts involving him filling his pockets with rocks and walking into the sea where we live, and him trying to hang himself on his 18th birthday. It still haunts me that he could even consider leaving us all behind, that he believed things were so bad that he couldn’t see a way out. When we were together, we never really talked about his suicide attempts. To be honest, I’m not sure he would have been so honest with me unless I didn’t tease him about not wanting to go swimming in the sea (he didn’t ever want to enter British sea again, and now I know his past with it, I can understand why).

Needless to say, my relationship with him was still very intense. I had ideas before I got to know him about his horrible past but nothing like what he explained to me: I could not relate at all to the drugs and drink and gangs that he was exposed to growing up and part of me felt so helpless that I couldn’t understand. I guess I am lucky in that, although I have had exposure to suicidal thoughts, I have never actually been through the tragedy of having someone close go through with it.

A few years after Finn and I broke up, I got a call from my best friend from college who was studying two hours away in Bristol. She had just been admitted to hospital after attempting to overdose. I’m sure many of you have been through the reality of trying to keep in touch with friends from home while you’re at uni. Although during our catch-ups she said she was having a hard time, I didn’t realise to what the extent. What was harder still was being so far away and not being able to do anything about it.

I think experiencing all this has taught me that you should never underestimate someone’s pain and always be there for support. People suffer differently for different reasons, and there is no end-all cure for depression and suicidal thoughts. And to people reading this who feel alone, please don’t suffer in silence. Know that there are so many people that care about you who want to support you and who might have no idea that you are going through such a tough time.

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