A Sobering Thought on World Mental Health Awareness Day — Every 40 Seconds, Someone Loses their Life to Suicide
World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. This year the focus is on suicide prevention and the WMH website has some great campaign videos on what emergency workers, health workers, teachers and employers can do to help prevent suicide.
But, I’ve come across some personal incidents I wanted to share. In a previous article, Wake Up, Brothers — Our Sons, Nephews and other Young Males Also Harm Themselves in Private, I wrote:
“The figures about young males who self-harm themselves are shocking, because quite frankly, who really knew? We’re talking young males who are cutting, burning, binge drinking, and are physically hurting themselves, often to alleviate the emotional pain or personal trauma they are going through. In the U.S., about 1 in 4 teen girls deliberately harm themselves without suicidal intentions, reports Psychology Today about a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health. But, the startling figure is this — about 1 in 10 teen boys harm themselves.
If we’re parents that’s our sons or nephews, or male children of our family, friends and associates. And, to make it worse, males undoubtedly keep instances of self-harm, even more to themselves.
LA-based MFT therapist Robyn E. Smith insightfully suggests, “It’s likely that boys and young men, even heterosexual teens, are under-reporting self-harm. They are probably the least likely to seek out help.”
I looked further and spoke to a British-based associate of mine who related a jaw-dropping statistic that the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK is suicide, and that “engagement in self-harming behaviours” is a predictor for suicide.
Let me reiterate that point — the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK is suicide. And, self-harm at a young age can foreshadow suicide.
As for his own experience as a youth with self-harm, my gentleman pal bravely recalled:
“As a teen, I was bullied and stressed over things, so I burned myself with a lighter and applied it to my skin until I felt a crispness. When the pain was too much I stopped. But I wanted to have that sense of ‘control’ because I didn’t feel it over anything. First, the idea was you control it. Second, no one can hurt you more than you hurt yourself. But it gives you a false sense of control. It’s more that you buy into an illusion, but that illusion can be enough to get you through that day. I didn’t speak at the time, but years later when I felt more comfortable, I did seek out help.”
Therapist Smith insightfully advises we be more aware of what’s going on, and about things we may not directly see:
“Pay attention if it looks like someone is suffering, or if a person is isolating him or herself. Listen, observe, try to get someone who may be struggling to talk about it with you or somebody else. It’s unfortunate to turn a blind eye. Yes, teens want to hide what they’re doing because of shame or guilt, but another part of them is needing to talk. So, show interest without being accusatory — try couching it like, ‘Hey I’ve heard some kids…’ and that could lead to someone admitting, ‘Okay, I’m doing that, too!’ Showing interest and concern can make all the difference.”
But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another UK-based associate of mine, Laurie Wilkinson, who worked in the psychiatric community for 30 years. For eleven of those years, Wilkinson was a “visiting psychy” in prisons. Indeed, his degree dissertation was “Prevention of Suicide in Prisons.” Wilkinson, who is a RMN and retired as a Senior Psychiatric nurse, is also a seven-time author with the nom de plume of The Psychy Poet. He offers worrying stats that approximately “one in three” young people in the UK have suffered from mental troubles, and that overall, about one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health issue each year. Wilkinson offers a couple of poignant poems about the issues of mental health:
One in Three
Love and laughter may sprinkle around
With no real problems for you and me,
But we must always be aware of the fate
That will befall every one in three.
For our lives can change in a trice
When the world sends us a test,
To deal with tragedy, failure or loss
When we are forced to do our best,
To keep our chins up and smile
And face the world with fragile pride,
That may fool many, and maybe you
Until you realise you’re dying inside.
As a blackness so dark falls all over you
With no pinprick of light in your pit,
So you blunder about and don’t even try
Whilst every sinew begs you to quit,
And perhaps shuffle off this mortal coil
That right now seems most appealing,
For even if you do try to fight back
You’re overwhelmed by a darkest feeling.
Where has all this come from you ask?
But in truth you may never know,
How you are reduced to anxiety tears
And constant feelings of death and woe,
That will affect many now in their lives
As if have swallowed a depressive pill,
For you have become one in the three
Who learn the trauma to be mentally ill.
Am I Dead?
I guess I must be dead now
For I feel no pain, or a life.
And nothing touches me
To bring succour or more strife.
And I can’t see outside my box
That’s how confinement feels.
Locked in consuming darkness
Which my personality steals.
I look out with sightless eyes
Upon a blackness staring back,
Into my empty, void-like brain
That feels it must now crack,
From all this unseen pressure
Pushing me helpless to the ground.
And even if I can get up again,
No sanctuary will be found.
So am I dead then, I must ask?
But only echoes answer now,
For nothing outside gets in
As nobody will know how.
So then I must be dead
Trapped in my limbo state,
Suffocated and being crushed
By an entity I now hate.
Although a flicker of some hope
I may escape from my regression.
When hearing daunting words say,
I’m suffering from depression!
Check out author Laurie Wilkinson on his The Psychy Poet website, listen to his Poems in the Pub Podcast, and follow him on Facebook. His copyrighted poems published courtesy of Rex Sumner at MyVoice Publishing.