Coronavirus and Suicide

It’s interesting to see how many experts there are in mental health these days as well as epidemiologists and virologists…

A message of hope to the Muslims feeling depressed with the current  oppressed state of the Ummah – Muslim Council of Hong Kong
(Image: MC of Hong Kong)

I really don’t enjoy when people use the likes of suicide rates to support their arguments and agendas. It’s not all about dry data but rather about real lives lost and real families suffering that devastation. NO suicide rate, whether it be increasing, decreasing, high or low is in any way acceptable. Prior to Covid-19 appearing in our lives, the UK experienced around 6,000 deaths by suicide with a figure of around 800,000 deaths worldwide.

As is often the case, figures do not tell the whole story though, suicide figures are complex for many reasons, for example the UK coroner system is inadequate for the close monitoring required for suicide statistics. Even though there hasn’t been a recent rise in completed suicides there remains a need for caution in adopting a stance that suicide figures won’t be affected by the pandemic.

A common public narrative is that suicides and self-harm have increased to epidemic proportions since Covid. These claims are not just misleading but also potentially harmful to those who are already struggling. Please think twice before spreading this type of misinformation. A claim last year was that suicide had increased by ‘200%’ and was posted some 31,000 times before being debunked and taken down.

So why are organisations such as the charity I am employed by and various surveys informing us that our mental health is deteriorating? How do we explain this contradiction? Well it’s true to say that as well as the risks there have been protective factors too. During earlier lockdowns there may well have been greater attempts from people in keeping in touch with and supporting each other. We have certainly been more alert to any possible crisese. Certainly I remember a greater community response to those in need. There may also have been a belief that Covid would ‘soon be over’ in some, leadig away from despairing thoughts.

Much of this has sadly, now disappeared with the needs of business and people’s livelihoods increasingly pitched up against the health of the public. The social help in communities has eroded since last year but yet, in this second year there are still significant risks. People are exhausted and pessimistic at every new lockdown or the prospect of one. Members of the public are reporting each other to the police and there is a more general lack of cohesion in the community. We need to continue to look after each other, especially regarding suicide ideation.

Most clinicians will tell you that recovery can be a dangerous time. In terms of restrictions being lifted we need to be careful. More than anything, we need to bring the compassion back into society in understanding and taking heed of people’s needs for support, especially where suicide and self-harm are concerned, not using lost lives to back arguments about the speed of restrictions being lifted.

Just my two-penneth on the situation though nobody asked me. I logged off work earlier and was on the point of ordering a cab to go to the hospital for my second jab when an individual texted me, in a bad way, so delaying my visit for the vaccination. He was in a bad way but is now being cared for, thankfully. That is the reality of this situation – not arguing about when you can get your gym open, if you can go inside a pub and get leathered for four hours or go on that Mediterranean holiday.

Have the gratitude that you’re healthy and actually want to live. it’s a great start.

Suicide: Do Remain Vigilant

I read today of the loss of a young person’s life in Edinburgh to suicide. Whilst any life lost in this way is a sad event, when it’s a young life, it is particularly so. There seems so much living left to do doesn’t there.

Are You Feeling Suicidal? -
Image: HelpGuide

I think being close and ‘connected’ to it in any way, even if purely by proximity or geography as the person relating this story was, reveals just how many other lives a loss like this can touch or affect. That figure too is more than most might imagine.

Research on this subject of affected others is comparatively sparse (and not always necessarily considered helpful) but in the 1970s it was thought that a figure of six people on average were affected in some way by a completed suicide.

Come up to date in recent years and indications are that figure is much more like 135 people approximately, affected in some way by every loss of life to suicide.

The true expenditures of suicide are of course the human and also intangible costs. No price or value can ever remotely by placed on those things. Even in non-emotional financial terms though, the average cost to a country’s economy is somewhat staggering. A US study in 2015 maintained that the average suicide costs $1.33m. Yes you did read that correctly.

We must all stay vigilant, especially in these times of great hardship, illness and bereavement for so many. Keep loving and caring. I feel a small happiness when those struggling are able to summon their courage in coming forward to ask for support or even place themselves under the care of others. It most often begins with a few simple words of disclosure and a plea for help. From there, good things can happen and lives can be saved.

We do not need fashionable slogans to practice our caring. It is humane and much more about love.

On a practical note, there is much advice readily available about speaking to people with suicide ideation and about detecting those who are in danger. By reading a little of it you may indeed save a treasured life.

To New Suicide Survivors

FOLLOWING THE WEEK which contained World Suicide Prevention Day, a few words for those suffering a new and tragic loss.

I guess I was reflecting and just wanted to try to offer you a few words of support and encouragement at this time, especially having also gone through a similar tragedy just last year. image

It may be very early days for you and I’m sure all sorts of things will be going through your head as you try to make sense of what indeed appears senseless.

Some of the reactions and support you will receive will be of comfort, some thought provoking, nearly all will be heartfelt. Accept the love and support that people offer, especially those close to you. I gained a tremendous amount of strength from my friends in general. I felt almost overwhelmed at the kindness and it taught me a lot about people, myself and my relationship with this world. In the midst of a sad situation, it is a gift to you. A natural equaliser and healer in life.

If you are a person of faith then there is no better time to call on that. Personally, I found it difficult to take part in Mass but would rather spend time in my local place of worship alone, finding peace, healing.

Forgive people if they are awkward around you. It is very difficult for some people to understand what to say or do in such circumstances. Know that all will feel for you, despite their apparent reactions.

I’m sure you will still be reeling with the shock of what has happened at this time. My main words to you would bStuart 22.9.15e to simply hang in there – survive it day by day – and let the future take care of itself when time inevitably works its miracle healing. It is a first-aid situation currently so don’t have too many expectations of yourself right now – just get through it the best you can. One day at a time, one hour at a time if need be. When you feel able in some way to return to your routines, if you have not already, undertake them slowly and be kind to yourself because you deserve it.

At the darkest of times it can help take your mind off things to think of others in the situation. There may be children in the situation or significant others who you can engage with and support each other. Look after each other – be a team.

Perhaps all or many of your days will feel bleak still at the moment and that is to be expected. Some days may feel unbearable but I am here to tell you that these times do decrease, though you may not be able to comprehend th
at right now. Have faith that this will happen and give time the chance to carry out its great work.

Whilst still very early days, when the pain becomes more bearable try to gently place back into your life, one-by-one, those elements that will help you, friendships, work, a little exercise, socialising. Take your time with them and go steady.

I’m sure that many have already offered but I’d also like to extend the hand of friendship and support to you. Write to me anytime, even if you just need to spit it out whatever is hurting you. Stay with us here, you are stronger than you think.


The Twenty Truths of Losing Your Partner to Suicide

1. You find that you talk to yourself in the absence of your partner. You wander around the house asking her questions. There are no answers.

2. You have upsetting images that flashback into your mind of when you had to identify your partner at the hospital. The images destroy you. You wonder if the sight of your breathless partner will ever leave you, to be replaced by the smiling image you remember.

3. You find yourself constantly asking yourself the questions ‘What if I could have done something?’ and ‘Why did you do this to yourself/me/your children?’

4. You feel so low at first that simple everyday things like keeping yourself clean seem like a huge task.

5. There are many times when you feel like taking your own life, so impossible do things seem. You consider different methods of doing this.

red rose

6. Eating becomes something to just survive. You don’t want to spend any time preparing proper food and you take solace in junk food. The microwave is your salvation.

7. Many of your long time neighbours avoid you. They push their children into the house when they see you walking up the road so that they can avoid talking to you because it’s ‘awkward’.

8. You wonder how you are going to be able to manage at work, ever, any more.

9. You cry when you least expect it, frequently. Even after a period of time when you think you’re ‘getting over it’ the tears squeeze out of your eyes unexpectedly when you have certain thoughts or are reminded of her in some unexpected way. You even cry at the nice things people say to you.

10. You find it difficult to listen to music because you associate the lyrics with you and your lost partner. The chords feel like a soundtrack to your broken life.

11. Even though you have friends and family you often feel so lonely, especially when you’re going back to that empty house once more. You can go a whole weekend barely speaking to anybody. You feel slightly powerless to do anything about this.

12. Anxiety is your normal state, you find yourself panicking about most things, often without specific reason.

13. Your life becomes narrow. Those country walks are no more, the meals out, the cinema. Holidays appear to be a thing that you used to do.

14. You become fatalistic about life and wonder if this is now all there is for you? That the game is over? You’re on your own until the lights finally go out.

15. You keep trying. You go to work on time, do your chores at home wherever possible, shop for food, tackle that garden as best you can. It all feels rather pointless. It isn’t for anybody else’s sake and you don’t care about yourself.

16. Your finances are in shock mode as you gain unexpected expenses whilst at the same time losing a household income.

17. You believe that you are not going to get through this ordeal. This feeling is revisited every day. Day after day.

18. Her clothing and possessions have to be sorted. This task feels heartless – like you are throwing your memories of being together away. Like you don’t care, but you do.

19. You begin to look at the people you know differently. Almost subconsciously you practise zero tolerance with people you feel have wronged you or ignored you at your time of need. Good people come to the fore, the genuine friends prove themselves time over. One or two new people enter your life, show caring and give you some hope.

20. You write a piece  like this but don’t know exactly why. You’re almost beyond caring if anybody reads it. You could write twenty more.