Category Archives: Suicide

The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive

Stephen Fry has made another deeply insightful documentary about manic-depression/bipolar disorder- The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. It is currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer here. (Warning- it can be triggering).

In it he talks about his own experiences of the disorder and re-visits the lives of those he interviewed in his previous documentary- The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive- which aired 10 years ago.

I must admit I found this new documentary difficult to watch, particularly when hearing about Mr Fry’s suicide attempt in 2012. The whole incident felt very close to experiences I’ve had and I felt suppressed memories bubbling to the surface- things I didn’t really want to look at.

The first documentary has 2 parts and is available to watch here (warning- can be triggering):


The second part can be watched here:


All the documentaries are so refreshing in their courageous look at what it is really like to have Bipolar Disorder- the interviews really get to the nitty-gritty of mental illness. Stephen Fry adds so much heart and depth with his own experiences, he is so endearing and  so strong in his open-ness. I kind of love him for it!

To Write Love On Her Arms

 To Write Love On Her Arms is a U.S-based organisation which aims to raise awareness of mental health issues, reduce suicide rates and provide hope to the many who are feeling trapped by depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. They achieve this through their blog, work in schools, colleges, and out on the streets.


To Write Love On Her Arms: The Story

The organisation began as a blog, after the founder, Jamie Tworkowski, wrote a short piece, which went viral over the internet, about her friend who struggled with self-injury and addiction. The story was called To Write Love On Her Arms.

Vision & Beliefs

What I love about this organisation is their vision, and their beliefs:

“You were created to love and be loved.
You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known.
You need to know your story is important, and you’re part of a bigger story.
You need to know your life matters.”

Their t-shirts (sold to make many for the organisation) bear slogans, such as:

“Hold on, I am still alive.”

“We will be the hopeful.”

“Let us not be silent.”

“Wake up. You’re still alive. We’re on your side.”

“People need other people.”

Their message is one of hope, love, support, positivity, and the importance of community. They talk of the strength and courage it takes to live everyday struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. We are the strong!

The Unseen Courageous is an article on their blog which illustrates this point perfectly.

Start A Conversation: Let’s Talk About Mental Health And Support Each Other!

Awareness is also promoted through their t-shirts, bearing the logo “To Write Love On Her Arms”. The slogan is a real conversation starter, which then offers the opportunity for you to tell the story of the organisation, your own story, or that of someone you love. Today is the day to start talking about mental health issues! The chances are that the person you are talking to has either experienced mental health issues themselves, or knows someone who has. Talking helps us all feel less alone and lets others know that there is help out there. Create an opportunity to share your experiences and support other people!

Now is the time to banish the shame felt through stigma and silence!


To Write Love On Her Arms

Related Posts:

Teen Mental Health Awareness

Football’s Suicide Secret

The Darkest Days and Survival

Face Fear: Making Peace With Your Shadow

Male Suicide: R.I.P Gary Speed.

My Dark Side: How To Know Thyself

Mental Health Treatment Concerns

On May 9th this year, Matthew Dunham, a 25 year old web designer from Norwich (UK), jumped to his death in a shopping mall close to my home. At the time he was under the care of Norfolk & Waveney Mental Health Trust, UK for depression. The coroner criticised the services for “fundamental deficiencies” and “serious inadequacies” in Matthew’s care, and whilst there was no lack of care received by him, it was “clearly fragmented and un-coordinated.”

For more information see this newspaper report from Norwich Evening News.

The inquest was held on Wednesday last week and despite positive changes being put in place by the health trust, it is seriously worrying that the trust is in the “midst of a cost-cutting exercise to shed 500 jobs and cut 20% of inpatient beds in the next four years”.

Eastern Daily Press article on inquest.

My Experience of Care

Since my own care has been under the same mental health trust, the standard of care received by Matthew was all too familiar and the criticism unsurprising. Individual members of staff have been pretty good in my experience, it’s more the system of care which seems fatally flawed.

Waiting times for appointments are far too long. During a serious depressive episode I waited 2 months to see a mental health nurse after referral. Whilst I was lucky to have support at home, if I had been on my own I would have had no support whatsoever.

Communication is horrendous: I went to see a new psychiatrist after 2 years with no psychiatric intervention, only to find he had absolutely no notes or medical record of my previous 8 years of treatment in the system. I told him I had been diagnosed as Bipolar and he didn’t believe me and told me it was PMT!!!! I was so angry! Luckily after 6 months-worth of mood diaries he came to the same conclusion.

Treatment is chronically dis-jointed: I have only seen the same psychiatrist 3 times. Every other time I saw somebody completely different and ended up having to explain everything again: family history, treatments tried, symptoms, no, I don’t smoke weed, no I wasn’t abused, yes I am sure I don’t smoke weed. When you are in soul-crippling depression this is not something you have the energy for and in fact only adds stress to a life crisis.

Another news article described the experiences of a local journalist who had developed serious depression. When he contacted the wellbeing service he was “passed from pillar to post, then told to call again later, I gave up. I simply could not try again”.

To me it feels like the trust is trying hard to cover all the legal bases, without actually caring about the experience of service users.

What do we want of our mental health care?

When I lived in Leeds I received much better care and was admitted to a day centre when I was in the midst of a mixed episode (this also highlights the variation in standard of care across the UK). It really helped me to feel supported and safe. There were support and therapy groups during the day as well as regular appointments with a psychiatrist- the same one, not passed from one to another. Medication was also available on site and each of us had our own keyworker who was available all day if we needed to chat. It really was very good.

For me, Bach Flower Remedies, Reiki, massage, exercise, journalling, aromatherapy, personal and spiritual development (including energy work such as grounding and clearing energies) have all played key roles too, as well as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. A trip to a spa also works wonders if I can afford it! I find being in nature very healing too and cuddling the dog!

To be able to go to a healing centre with all around therapy access would be awesome- with the focus on healing & wellness as a whole-being, not just our mental states. Working on personal development too would be ideal in my world.

It would be great to hear your ideas of ideal treatment & therapy for bipolar, depression, anxiety, etc.

Moving Forward

The suicide of Matthew Dunham here in Norwich is just one example of a case where the system has failed an individual. Of course, it is not the only factor involved, but when you’re on the edge of suicide the help and support you get is essential. Positive changes are coming into play at the trust here in Norfolk (though the budget cuts are worrying), but should it really take a suicide for this to come about?

Related Posts

Football’s Suicide Secret

Male Suicide: R.I.P Gary Speed

Bipolar Disorder: The Darkest Days & Survival


Norwich Evening News

Eastern Daily Press article on inquest





Football’s Suicide Secret

For those UK viewers who missed it, yesterdays documentary about Frank Bruno’s Bipolar Disorder is repeated tonight:

Rachel Bruno: My Dad and Me

BBC3 10pm

Another very interesting documentary was broadcast a few weeks ago and is still available to watch on BBC iPlayer:

Football’s Suicide Secret

This superb documentary was conceived after Wales manager Gary Speed’s suicide in 2011 and investigates depression and suicide amongst professional footballers. Ex-footballer Clarke Carlisle talks very openly about his experiences with depression and talks to other footballers who have faced a similar battle. It really is superb.

This is also being repeated BBC3 Monday 29th July at 3am- so set your Sky+ boxes!!

Teen Mental Health Awareness

Mental Health has again been in the UK press this morning- this time regarding the inadequate care and treatment of suicidal teens.

Mental heath issues during the teenage years is a topic very close to my heart. I had some extremely despairing thoughts and feelings whilst in high school and sixth form. My mood had started swinging from the age of about 13 onwards. It never occurred to me that I had an illness.

Depression & Anxiety During School Years

Sobbing silently in my bedroom I tried to conceal my unhappiness from my parents to protect them. They both had depression and the last thing I wanted was to make them worse! I was so lonely. I didn’t even know what I was crying about half the time. But I remember that desperate helplessness and thinking that things would never get better for me. I was angry and jealous that the other kids seemed to find school so easy to cope with, whilst I found it extremely stressful, even traumatic.

I was terrified of a couple of boisterous, aggressive lads in our class. Their chaotic, angry natures disturbed me a lot and I felt extremely uncomfortable even having them in the class. They weren’t particularly horrible to me, but their behaviour to others was enough to affect me negatively.

The jostling, pushing and rushing through crowds of chaotic kids, in a mad scramble to get from one class to the next, was enough to leave me feeling exhausted! I never really knew why. I was always so affected with anxiety in these situations- I was in a chronic state of stress.

I think all this was a part of my general unhappiness with my teenage life. I was so sensitive and really needed a calm, quiet working environment, even then. School was an unsettling, disturbing, even threatening environment for me- and I went  to a fairly decent school! I dreaded Monday mornings with a passion.

Parental Depression

This was just one aspect of the difficulties I encountered as a teenager. In retrospect I wish my parents or teachers had done more to help me. There was a vague attempt to speak with my parents when I had frequent short episodes of sickness from school, but nothing ever came of it. My parents knew I cried regularly due to red, puffy eyes, but my Mum attributed it to hormones. I think they should have sent me to a doctor or counsellor.

I wish I had known sooner that I was experiencing mental illness. I just thought I was defective and felt in the wrong place on the wrong planet. I couldn’t talk to anybody at all about how I felt. I was so worried about making Mum & Dad’s depression worse. I felt completely responsible for their happiness. I didn’t realise I was only responsible for mine.

Awareness & Intervention

I was so innocent and naive. How could I have known I was ill or that there was help available out there? Why didn’t anyone do anything to help me? I don’t think I could have hidden it all that well, could I? Maybe I did! It was an extremely lonely time. This and the anxiety were a constant.

So yeah, I feel exceedingly for teenagers who are experiencing their own, or their parents’, mental health problems. I think as much as anything I just wish that someone, anyone, had noticed and got me to a doctor or counsellor whilst I was still that young. I think parents and teachers (I know they are very overloaded already, but they are important to kids) should be made more aware of the signs a kid is experiencing difficulties with mental ill health s intervention can be taken earlier. I’m sure I wasn’t completely devoid of signs of my illness, I just didn’t know that help was available or how to ask for it.

You Never Have to be Alone.

If I could revisit my 13-year-old-self today, I would tell her that her repeated, despairing sobs weren’t normal and that she doesn’t have to suffer in silence or alone. There is help available to her. An earlier diagnosis would have helped me enormously, just so I could feel that at least there was a clinical reason for my emotional pain- I wasn’t just a freak!

Maybe this was all just my experience. Maybe kids these days are better informed and get help more quickly than I did. But judging by the news article today, enough still isn’t being done to help teenagers in distress.

Resources & Links

BBC Newsbeat

Teen Mental Health

Child and Adolescent Mental Health

The Guardian- Today’s Youth: Anxious, Depressed & Anti-Social

School-based Mental Health Support Results in Positive Outcomes for Children

Photo Credit: David Castello Dominici

Down & Up again in a Day.

Today’s been odd- I woke up pretty damn depressed. I was feeling awful about the whole day & didn’t want to get out of bed. I was despairing inside doing the whole depressed thinking thing- it would be better for my boyfriend if I wasn’t here– kind-of thing. Thoughts of suicide were prominent- not in a planning way, just thinking what it would be like. I wouldn’t do it, I couldn’t do that to my boyfriend, or the dog! Anyway I was pretty bad.

This afternoon an unexpected cheque for £36 arrived in the post- how great is that!! Needless to say my whole mood perked up after this and I feel much more like myself this evening.

How can I go from suicidal thinking back to normality in the space of 10 hours???

I got really riled up by a post I read yesterday on a website. The post was called “The Real Reason Your Wife Doesn’t Want To Work” . I think the title alone got me annoyed. So maybe I went to bed wound up and woke up still tense about it?

But that’s beside the point! I just think it’s crazy how anyone’s mood can switch from serious thoughts of wanting to die back to fairly normal again within a few hours. I honestly feel fine again now, no suicidal thoughts or anything. Maybe I really am insane?! I just don’t get it!

Does anyone else find this? Is it a Rapid-Cycling Bipolar thing or is it more likely to be Borderline Personality Disorder?

Just wanted to add I found a great book in the library today: Family Experiences of Bipolar Disorder by Cara Aiken. Lots of real-life experiences from different perspectives.

Male Suicide- R.I.P Gary Speed

I don’t want to jump conclusions with regards to the recent suicide of Gary Speed, ex-footballer and Wales Manager, but it is a good opportunity to talk about male suicide. During his appearance on Saturday’s Football Focus he certainly didn’t show any sign that he was suffering in any way. No wonder the immense shock of Sunday’s news.

This masking of suffering, putting on a brave face, can be the killer in my opinion. I think men are under a lot more pressure than women to keep their emotions to themselves and to show their “strength”. It is much harder for them to admit a problem and ask for help- imagine how incredibly alone and desperate that must make them feel. In my 9 years with  my boyfriend, I’ve only ever known him to go to the doctor’s once, and that was under pressure from me!! Surely it is more a sign of strength to show what is really going on for you and to ask for help. There are always solutions and people to support you. Just look at the sadness throughout the football community over what has happened- they are distraught, any one of them would have jumped at the chance to help Gary, whatever his need. Thank goodness these men are showing their true emotions and openly expressing their despair in tears on the football pitch. This is how it should be and I admire their strength and courage.

I have had, and still do, my own battle with suicidal thoughts and have attempted to end it all myself. I thank God for saving me then. I know how deeply painful and despairing are those thoughts that creep inside your head, how desperate and isolating it feels. My head was and still gets so mucked up, I truly believe I’m going to die anyway any minute, so I  might as well do it on my own terms. When embedded in the immense pain of depression, you are unable to think so clearly about the feelings of others and how they would react to your death. You can only think in a delusional way- that absolutely nobody loves and cares for you, that you are completely alone, nobody will miss you, you have contributed nothing to the world, you are the most disgusting and hated creature on the planet. You do not feel human, only like a cloud of crap that mooches it’s way from person to person making them feel as miserable as you. Why would anybody want to feel like that. Better to remove yourself from the picture, yes? Everyone will be so much better off- you are a problem to them, a nuissance. These are the utterings of the depressed mind- to you everything is completely logical and 100% real- you believe everything your mind tells you. It is so so easy to believe it. All you want is for the pain to stop.

Male suicide is a subject close to my heart as my Grandad killed himself when I was only 2. This has greatly affected my parents and Grandma, and robbed me and my sister of a grandfather. A friend of mine also lost her father to suicide.

Suicide is such a taboo subject. We as a society need to face up to the fact that it happens and stop sweeping it under the carpet and hoping the problem will disappear. “If we don’t talk about it  it doesn’t exist”, is the message. It does exist, it is more common than we realise, and by not talking about it openly, it only increases the shame both men and women feel about depression and suicide. Shame will increase the severity of the depression and prevent people from asking for help, therefore increasing suicide risk.

Depression is an illness that fosters shame and guilt- I am in that place at the moment and yes I am guilty of putting on a mask too. But maybe I will try to lower my barrier of false cheeriness and allow my true feelings to be seen, I hope others will join me in this, in an attempt to replace ignorance with understanding and acceptance as a society.

Gary Speed’s family and friends will ultimately have an excrutiatingly painful time ahead of them- confusing in it’s mixture of shock, grief, despair and immense anger. To them and any other family suffering in such a way I wish blessings upon, and hope that one day they will find their own peace.

Bipolar Disorder: The Darkest Days and Survival.

Song of the Day (2): Stone Cold Sober by Paloma Faith

(Photo Credit: Connie Snow- This Little Blog of Mine, available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License).

Warning: this post includes content on suicide and self-harm.

Seeing as I’m having a bit of a dark day myself I thought I’d tackle the subject I’ve least wanted to write about: self harm and suicide attempts. I’ve been there. These were some of my darkest hours when I could see absolutely no way out- I was a lot younger then and had yet to find the right medication. All I know is it was 11 years ago and I still haven’t gotten over it. It only happened once, because every time I’ve been close to it since then, I’ve managed to go back to all the regret and pain it caused- there is no way I would ever do it again. I don’t want to go into too much detail mainly in case people I know read this, but also because it’s a horrible thing to read about.  At the time I thought I was the only one, it was like being on the moon with no one else there- only rock and dark and emptiness. No colour, no air. No hope of being rescued. I could watch everyone else from a distance, but no one could hear me or see what was really going on inside.

During the different cycles I’ve been through over the years, other deep, despairing depressions have come and gone and I would like to emphasize GONE! They do go, you may have to be bloody patient, grit your teeth, kick and scream and survive in any way you can, but they’re gone! They go. It’s about SURVIVAL. It hurts, it can be so painful and so lonely, but just survive on the darkest days. I found ways to survive and one dysfunctional behaviour stays with me still: binge-eating; apparently a common comorbid condition with Bipolar. I see it as a residual symptom of suicidal days- it pains me on days like today where I hate it with every fibre of my being, but I have to remind myself- it helped me survive. Don’t consciously go out to do it- there is no way I would recommend it to get through suicidal ideation/self-harm periods, it can cause more heartache. But for now I try and see it as something that kept me alive and I’ve no doubt it did. It is something I can work on now that my meds are working (thank God for Lamotrigine). But I am exceptionally strong- I see that now that I’m out the other side. I didn’t give in.

If you are in one of these dark places right now- tough it out. Do what you can to get through. Survive. You don’t have to be anything other than alive during these times. Getting to the end of the day is an achievement. Stay in bed all day, watch TV all day, play computer games all day. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are at your lowest point, but if that’s what you’ve got to do to distract yourself do it. Call the Samaritans, your psychiatrist, community psychiatric nurse, tell them the truth. You’ll feel less alone for just having told someone. Get emergency counselling- there are many organizations who will do this either for free or a very low fee.

One of my therapists once gave me a great suggestion for the worst days- the Emergency Box. The idea is that when you are feeling like you want to self-harm, or worse, you open the box and rummage through the contents. You can customize the box any way you like, which is actually quite fun in itself. The best boxes to use are shoe boxes or something of a similar size. Here’s the kind of thing you can put in:

– Photos from brilliant times you’ve had/of people you love.

– Old letters people have written you.

– Certificates, medals, artwork you’ve created- anything you’re really proud of. I’ve even put my school reports in, there were some really nice things said.

– A dose of  anti-psychotic/anti-anxiety meds if you’ve been subscribed one for these particular times.

– I’ve written letters to myself when I’ve been well – to remind me how to get through it all and that it wont last forever- and put them in the box.

– Also leaflets for local counselling services, number of friends to call, massage therapist contacts, holiday brochures, anything that can remind me of the positive parts of my life so far. When we left school we all had a book in which we could get everyone to write in, so I’ve put that in there too and cards I’ve received for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, birthdays, etc.

There is one little book which I found extremely helpful during depression with little sayings in it- so you don’t have to concentrate too much. That’s there too. It’s called “When I Loved Myself Enough” by Kim McMillen and I would totally recommend it for the dark days.