In 2015, Caroline was very poorly with long-term mental health problems, anxiety and depression, she’d just lost her job and was in an unhappy relationship. She had been having suicidal thoughts for some time but remembers them intensifying on the day she lost her job.
“I spoke to my community mental health team about the thoughts I was having and voluntarily spent two weeks in a psychiatric unit to keep myself safe. I was having suicidal thoughts constantly and was thinking how I could end my life. I was discharged and spent the next month continuing to have these thoughts. No one knew I was still thinking about suicide, but I became stuck in that dark routine.
“One day I did try to end my life – I didn’t know what else to do. I was found collapsed and taken to A&E. I was in a coma for nine days and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for two weeks.”
“I remember waking up feeling lucky to survive. I was extremely relieved that I hadn’t ended my life, but it was a real shock to the system.”
“And to my family. They had spent the last two weeks having to face difficult questions from medical staff. Seeing my family’s reaction was hard. It took me a long time, and lots of support, to recover physically and emotionally.”
Caroline is supporting the Shining A Light On Suicide campaign, which has been commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership to take the sensitive subject of suicide out of the dark and encourage everyone to talk about it in an honest, open and direct way, so no one sees suicide as a solution to their problems. Suicide is the biggest killer of women aged between 20 to 34 in the region.
“My friends had no idea of how I had been feeling. Opening up to them after my suicide attempt helped me massively. I realised I had shut everyone out as I thought I was protecting them. It took me, my friends and family a long time to adapt to an open conversation, but it has helped a lot.”
“I have spent a lot of time being grateful that I didn’t kill myself. I remember the ICU nurse telling me she was proud of me and that I should give living a chance – that stuck with me.”
“I am so grateful for little moments now. I vividly remember the taste of my first meal after waking up from the coma. It was bananas and custard – my favourite food. I remember thinking how wonderful it was to see the sunset coming home from hospital. I also really appreciate people’s support, the help from my recovery team and my therapist, as well as family and friends who have helped piece things back together. I know that person – who felt there was no other option than suicide – was me but three years on, I feel like someone else.
“I am in work now – doing a completely different job I love. I work part time in a vets in the evening and walk dogs during the day. I realised that I needed something that would help me get out of the house, into nature and get some exercise. It is perfect for now. I have learned to be easy on myself and to be honest and sensible with how I’m feeling.
“Last year, an old friend got in touch and I then found out she had ended her life. It shook me up and I didn’t know how to respond. I met her mum and went to her funeral. It pushed me forward to help others going through similar issues. I realised that it’s so important to talk. I decided to help PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, the charity that had given me support and advice, helping with my recovery.
“I volunteer for PAPYRUS now and have completed their championship training, so I talk to people in the community – professionals, service users, family members, people who are concerned about others. I wanted to put all this energy into something positive and meaningful. It keeps me going. Through working with PAPYRUS, I have also learned lots about self-care. Recognising how to look after yourself is so important.
“I know we can’t reach everyone but if we can help make the community more aware and more able to have conversations then we are some way there.
“I am shining a light on suicide for anyone who has felt alone with their suicidal thoughts. I remember a friend saying to me that feelings, emotions and situations have the ability to change if you give them time. Know that your feelings can change. If you are struggling, give yourself time. And if you can muster enough strength, please reach out for help.
“Awareness around mental health and suicide has improved greatly in recent years. But the word alone still makes people uncomfortable. We need to understand that it is ok to feel emotions.
“Please seek out information from reputable sources and have a conversation. If you feel uncomfortable talking about suicide, ask yourself why?”
Together we can help prevent suicide. Suicide affects us all. Encourage someone to talk before suicide seems their only option.
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