Next month (May) marks Mental Health month in the US, and Mental Health Awareness Week is coming up in the UK in a couple of weeks.
In the UK, approximately 16 people per day will take their own lives, and men are 3 times more likely to do so than women. If you find the subject triggering then please don’t read this, but whilst we’re aware this is a very sensitive subject, we also know that mental health and, in particular, suicide need to be talked about openly in order to break taboo, encourage people to speak up when they’re feeling in despair, and get the necessary help to prevent such tragic outcomes.
This week’s blog is written for us by suicide prevention trainer, retired counsellor, and Club Soda member Lorna, on how to deal with distress and what to do if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts:
Having joined Club Soda fully intending to drink occasionally, I now discover I’m an accidental teetotaller – and now I’m an accidental blogger. Somehow, I’ve gone from sending some resource ideas to Club Soda, to finding myself sitting here writing a very first blog. But as some of you on Club Soda Facebook know, I do comment a lot, so I’m just trying to think of this as one massive comment!
I’m lucky enough to be pretty much retired, but I still do some work delivering training on suicide prevention/intervention, mostly safeTALK and ASIST courses (developed by Livingworks). When I joined the Club Soda Facebook group, I was really impressed by how the Admins, and other members, seemed to quickly pick up on people in distress and how sensitively they handled it. Club Soda will write a bit more about that below and how you can alert Club Soda Admins to posts you’re worried about, and I’m writing this section from a personal perspective, based on my own experience and things I’ve picked up through training and from working with people in my earlier life as a counsellor. I hope it’ll be helpful for anyone who sometimes has thoughts about suicide. These thoughts are very common and are not something to be ashamed of. Anyone of us can feel overwhelmed at times and can find ourselves thinking about suicide as a response to that distress.
There is a very strong link between alcohol and suicide. I remember reading that “there is nothing that can’t be made worse by alcohol” and that is certainly true when it comes to feeling distressed and overwhelmed. As I’m sure you know, alcohol distorts our thoughts and feelings, it can increase feelings of distress and despair, low mood, anxiety, isolation and loss; it distorts our view of problems and worries, and it can make us act more impulsively. Alcohol is involved in many deaths by suicide, as well as instances where people acted on suicidal thoughts but, thankfully, survived. It was definitely a factor when, once in my own my life, I had a fleeting thought of suicide: it was New Year, too many drinks, feeling a bit sad by the sea and I just thought about walking in. Part of me knew I didn’t want to, but the thought definitely popped into my head. A sudden spike of distress fuelled by alcohol.
We know from research that most people experiencing suicidal thoughts don’t want to die, but they are finding it hard to live with whatever’s going on for them. There’s actually a lot of hope in that knowledge because it means there’s so much potential for finding ways through these temporary thoughts. In some ways, thoughts of suicide are like the voice of the Wine Witch – they tell you lies. If you’ve been having thoughts of suicide, please get some help and support. No matter what’s going on for you, there is always someone or something that can help you deal with it and below are some contact and resource ideas that I hope will be helpful.
If at any time you feel you can’t keep yourself safe from suicide, or if you’ve done something to harm yourself, you call 999 (in the UK) or go to Accident & Emergency.
If you are struggling, one of the best things you can do is talk to someone you trust – that might be a supportive friend or family member, your GP or other health professional, or you could contact a helpline:
Papyrus-uk.org has HopelineUK for people up to age 35 – tel. 0800 068 4141
Healthtalk.org is a lovely website featuring videos of real people sharing their personal experiences of all kinds of health issues, including mental health and wellbeing.
And of course, Club Soda website has lots of helpful information about how to change unhealthy drinking habits and loads of tips on how to look after your mental and physical health.
Safety kit for distress
When you’re feeling okay, it’s a great time to put together a comfort or safety kit that you can use in times of distress. These are very individual, like us, so put whatever you like in your own:
- A card or leaflet with the phone numbers of a helpline or someone you can talk to.
- A postcard that triggers a nice memory.
- Photos of people and/or pets you care about – and who care about you.
- A letter to yourself reminding you that these thoughts and feelings will pass, and with some ideas of what helped before.
- A letter you’ve asked a caring friend to write highlighting what they love/value in you.
- A nice scent, hand lotion or similar.
- A CD (if you’re old like me), or a nice playlist.
- A reminder list of things that help – like going for a walk, meeting someone, drawing, baking, cooking, playing music, having a bath etc.
Finally, if you want to learn more about how to recognise that someone may be having thoughts of suicide and how to help someone, you could look for training courses in your own area – a lot of community organisations offer the safeTALK and ASIST training courses, although other courses are available!
Thanks for reading, please look after yourselves and each other.
From Club Soda:
If you see a post or comment from someone on our forums that concern you regarding someone’s state of mind, please notify us by reporting the post. On desktop Facebook pages you can do this by clicking the arrow at the top right of the post, then selecting ‘report post’ and choose ‘Suicide or self-injury’ from the options. On mobile Facebook, click the 3 dots at the top right of the post, then choose ‘Find support or report post’ and then choose ‘It’s harmful’ from the options given. We’ll make direct contact with the poster and remove the post/comment from the forum so as not to worry other members. Do feel free to provide a link to this article to them in the meantime, as although we endeavour to act on post reports as soon as we can, there may be a slight delay at certain times of the day. Do not, under any circumstances, try to contact friends of the person who posted or act on their behalf unless you know them personally outside of the group.
If you are a member that’s feeling suicidal then we’d urge you to contact one of the organisations above and you, of course, can contact us directly – however please note that we’re not medical professionals and this is not our area of speciality.
We want our community to feel safe, and to feel heard – we value each and every one of you, so please know you are never alone.