Stephen Fry is in the news today after he talks in an interview about a suicide attempt last year. He said:
"Now, you may say, how can anyone who has got it all be so stupid as to want to end it all? That's the point, there is no 'why?', it's not the right question. There's no reason."
At the same time, the media is full of speculation about why the teenage girl of a famous singer allegedly tried to take her life, including theories from the girl's mother.
If someone is experiencing such pain and distress that they are thinking about ending their life, then they are in a terrifying and lonely place. It can also be very frightening for those people close to them, as they struggle to understand and know how to help. It is not surprising that we seek to find out why - so that we can fix the problem, reason away the fears. As Stephen Fry tells us, though, that will not work.
So, how can you start the conversation if you are worried about someone? If that someone is you, then start by, well by just starting to talk to someone about it. It is that simple step, that can feel so overwhelming, so impossible, that could be the start of the move back from the negative and despairing place you are in to one where you can see and look forward to a future. If you don't have a family member of friend that you can talk to, then there are organisations that will listen. Samaritans has been listening to people for 60 years, which in itself is proof that you are not alone. Other organisations, like Mind have helplines or other services where people will listen to you and support you to get the help you need and deserve and not shy away from the difficult things that you are experiencing.
In 2011 there were 6,045 suicides in people aged 15 and over in the UK, an increase of 437 compared with 2010. Of course, that means there were many more attempted suicides and even more who thought about suicide but fortunately did not take any action. I wish there were statistics on how many people thought about suicide but then were able to access help and so were glad that they never carried it through. This blog where a 28-year-old woman writes to her 12-year-old self is a triumph of hope.
What if you are worried about someone else? Mind has listened to what people who have experienced suicidal thoughts have told us and they ask us to listen. We should listen to what is said, even if what they have to say is upsetting. We should not dismiss expressions of helplessness or not recognise the depth of their despair. We should be accepting and listen to what ideas people have to help themselves rather than jump in with our own solutions. However, we should also be prepared to encourage and support people to seek help.
It might feel like a difficult conversation to have, but here's a start. Instead of asking why, perhaps we could start off with asking how. How are you? How can I help? And then being prepared to listen to the answers.