Self awareness is a vital tool in surviving your mental illness. While it can help prevent you from acting on your urges to self harm and take your own life, it still doesn't make the feeling of Suicide go away. Only two people know I have been struggling with self harm urges the past 24 hours. On the internet, I seem happy and had a productive day seeing my family down south.Unfortunately, it has surfaced a lot of traumatic imagery from my childhood. Today I want to explore how we can all play a part in preventing someone from hurting themselves or acting on their suicide ideation. I want people to take on board some small steps I can suggest to prevent someone from acting on their over whelming emotions or any other symptoms of their mental illness over taking their day to day routine.
Firstly, we need to keep in mind that MOST suicide and self harming episodes are preventable. But we cannot just sit there and say we want to help. We need to be able to offer that extra hand of support and you can do it in your daily practices without even having to do anything major or strenuous. Small gestures can be a small step to making someone who is lost in their head come out of the web and tangles of despair. A small gesture can be a major reminder to show the person struggling in the moment in time that there are people out there thinking of them and caring about them.
I cannot firmly say actions speak louder than words. If you know of someone who speaks of their mental illness daily (like myself), check in. Even if they do seem to be high functioning and present themselves as 'busy and happy' on social media, always keep in mind most high functioning mental illness suffers are masking a lot of their pain. Masking is not a sign of weakness or inauthenticity. Masking is a coping mechanism. Masking is a way of us not wanting to end up being a burden, or relying too heavily on someone we may long to have a close connection to.
So I will write about myself as an example of lived experience. Most people from an outsiders perspective see me as a high functioning person who has a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They dont see me behind closed doors. Most days I will be so lost in my thoughts that I have to keep on top of them, because if I dont keep on top, I will hurt myself or maybe take it a step too far and end my life. I know how disheartening that sounds, but this is me writing honestly. My mind is plagued of thoughts from my illness such as abuse, trauma, self destructive speaking, despair and agony. My coping strategies is what keeps me stable. But some days I dont have the energy to reach out. This is where we can all play a part.
Even if you know someone seems high functioning and okay, still do not hesitate to ask them how they are or how their day is going. No one is ever too busy to check in occasionally or every couple of days. If your intuition is telling you that they seem to be struggling, say you had a feeling or noticed that they weren't quite themselves. This opens a gateway for safe and vital conversations of illness and suicide to be had. I know how frightening it may be for someone who may not have had someone close to them speak up of these thoughts. Asking how someone is is a huge difference. And this is asking someone frequently- not just on the commercialised but important "R U Okay" or Suicide Prevention Day. Every day we can all make a difference in someone else's life. A difference that isn't too much of an ask or an impossible feat.
We need to start listening assertively to the people like myself who give up some of their own time daily into helping others reach out about their illness and suffering. No matter what diagnosis or pain you are experiencing, yours is valid. No ones is "bigger" than the others, please remember that. Read up on their writings, send them a message and most importantly, do not be afraid to ask questions to something you may not understand. Asking questions with an open mind is how you grow and learn. Asking questions may also help save a life. I know it helps save mine.