On the 10th September, our expert by experience Louisa shared her story at the HPFT_NHS virtual conference for World Suicide Prevention Day 'Creating Hope Through Action'.
The conference raised awareness among HPFT staff and provided a platform for people to express how their experiences affected them and their families.
We heard how people felt before, during and after the crisis and one theme emerged: having hope and receiving kindness and encouragement is essential to overcoming suicidal thoughts. Although some people shared their stories of how hope helped them, it’s clear there are many still facing despair.
HPFT’s Chief Executive, Tom Cahill said: “Suicide is devastating – not only for the person involved, but also their family, friends and colleagues.”
The pandemic, including loss of jobs and financial difficulties has added to the pressure. There is a year on year increase in deaths by suicide, of which 75% were among men.
Men face bigger physical health risks from contracting the virus; and traditional gender roles affect how men respond to poor mental wellbeing. There are notions about ‘what is masculine’; and although the stigma is changing, on the whole, many men still feel unable to speak about their emotions; because as society teaches men that ‘talking is a sign of weakness’.
We’re here, along with HPFT, to say: talking is not a sign of weakness – it takes courage! You too can spread the message that ‘nobody needs to stay strong or silent’.
Louisa’s inspiring speech ‘from grief to hope’ highlights just how powerful hope can be during times of despair, no matter who you are or what you are going through.
Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (HFPT) has launched a new free helpline: 0800 6444 101 for those experiencing a mental health crisis, looking for mental health help or just need to talk. Support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The college has launched a number of new wellbeing courses to help people improve their mental health, including a dedicated course for men’s health and wellbeing. You can read more about how to support men on our dedicated men’s health campaign page and you can see our full list of courses at https://www.newleafcollege.co.uk/Courses-A-Z
Loneliness, hopelessness, pain, Anger and desperation.
These are some of the feelings I began experiencing at 23. I was at University. I had been married two years, living away from everyone I knew and believed I had to be 'the perfect wife'; which turned me into someone me nor my partner recognised. I felt trapped, living with in-laws who I wasn't getting along with. I felt so unwanted, I kept a log of every time my husband rejected me intimately. I logged painful experiences, such as being told my partner didn’t love me or when friends would say they heard he was divorcing me. My self-esteem was so damaged, believed all of those lies. In addition, my bad eyesight meant I was banned from driving, taking away my independence. And I was learning that the extra genes I possess means my future children could be severely disabled. I’d gained weight. I’d become needy; and by the time my partner got an intern job and worked long distance, I had lost all parts of my identity. Without him, I spent my days existing by the phone.
As well as feeling empty, I hated myself. And worse of all, I didn’t have the confidence to stand up for myself or share how I felt.
So all those feelings grew. I had thought about taking my life several times.
At University I would collect pills and would lay them out on the floor one by one. I was that desperate, I was ready to do it whilst others were in the house. But someone would come up the stairs and I would hide it all under the bed and the feelings would subside. However those feelings of desperation would return a number of times, and many years later I’d learned that taking pills wasn’t always successful, so I spent my days writing personalised suicide notes, dedicating my belongings to friends and family and desperately hunting for the key to a gun safe.
I had reached a point where I was having arguments in shopping centres. Or sobbing on the floor, barely able to breathe. I had insomnia, I was secretly binge eating and had low self-esteem that affected every aspect of my life. I had stayed five years at a job with an emotionally abusive boss; purely because I didn’t think anyone else would want to hire me. I had previously been fired 5 times because I didn’t have the confidence to seek support for my disability. Instead, I grew passive agressive and hated myself even more.
My partner stayed throughout this, despite the fact that I was angry all the time, and not taking care of the house or myself. I was also spending all of our money on my shopping addiction, and private counselling, acupuncture, courses. Anything to stop the pain. And because I was in pain, I was holding back on giving my partner the one thing he wanted: children.
The gp’s only solution for me was anti-depressants. But taking those would bring shame on my family. My partner warned me against them; having seen how they affected others So I didn’t take them. The CBT people said I was too unwell for their help. The CHAMS team said I wasn’t unwell enough for theirs. And then full circle back to the GP, who said they couldn’t help someone who wouldn’t help themselves. I was totally lost.
It was feeling useless that led to suicidal thoughts. I was a burden and thought everyone was better off without me. My husband didn’t understand; his response to my depression was ‘get over it’.
Then, I came across the New leaf Recovery and Wellbeing College. I did every course they offered and my depression completely lifted. I felt so light; it was like walking on clouds. Over the course of the year, my confidence grew.
I found another job. I started doing the things I loved again. I spoke up to my partners family and reconciled. After that, my anger evaporated overnight.
But later, I would go on to experience more despair when my new job didn’t work out. I went back into crisis mode and told my partner I didn’t think I could ever work again. This was the last straw for my partner and in the space of one weekend, I lost my job, my home, my partner, and my self-esteem once more. I had nowhere to go and no money either. I was so grief stricken I lost a stone in a week from not eating. I lost friends along the way too.
But because I had done those courses a year before, surprisingly I bounced back. I didn’t even think about suicide. Shortly after, I took control and went travelling. It helped me overcome the resentment I felt and I met new friends that restored my faith in humanity. Upon my return, I started saving, re-learning the piano and practiced mindfulness and gratitude.
My husband and I have just celebrated our 13th year of marriage and we are feeling closer than ever before, even looking into IVF. I also started two new jobs and they gave me purpose. I might not be alive today without those courses and the opportunities that the college provides. As an expert by experience, I have the privilege of seeing how their courses help people to grow and overcome their own wellbeing challenges. I’m finally glad to say I feel loved, appreciated and supported.