Tag Archives: Suicide


After the carefully thought out philosophical comments by Jeremy Clarkson this week, it made me think further about the stigma in society that we face about  suicide and those in mental distress.

The common preconceptions that suicide is “selfish” appears to still pervade society’s public houses and homes throughout the UK.  After all this time, can mental illness ever lose it’s stigma, or will it remain the acceptable butt of people’s jokes and prejudices.

Something in the region of 1 in 4 people suffer mental distress each year and suicidal thoughts can be a regular occurrence for those in extreme distress.  Suicide is the biggest killer in the “world” of all young people (under 25), while each year more people die in the UK from suicide than they do from road traffic deaths and homicides combined.    Yet despite this, people are loath to talk about this subject or to acknowledge it’s significance.

This cultural attitude is exemplified by the ignorant and over bearing like Jeremy Clarkson who are happy to comment on subjects he knows little about in order to garner more kudos from his “fans” and of course gain himself a “little earner” – (did you know he had a new dvd out? )  – I’m sure being racist would be on his radar if he thought he could get away with it.

Unlike many, I have to say I am not a Clarkson hater.  I find his pithy vaguely funny remarks in a sometimes overbearingly politically correct world sometimes entertaining. However, what many episodes along the way have shown is that his ignorance and willingness to offend for monetary gain, gives his game away.

Suicide is selfish

An interesting statement, and many believe it.  The cognitive thought process that goes into this statement

Suicide is selfish

Is easy to understand.  We see the individual.  We see the consequences.  We see the son, daughter, mother, father, wife, husband, lover, family, home – left behind, seemingly to pick up the pieces.  To carry on, with the cloud that suicide leaves in it’s wake darkening the lives of those left behind.

I hear the call that it is an “individual choice”, surely we all have a choice.  People who commit suicide have a choice to commit the act of suicide or not to.

All of this makes sense to many people.  It’s obvious isn’t it?

Over the past year, I have volunteered for a charity called CHANGES BRISTOL which provides support groups for those in mental distress.  The subject of suicide comes up all too frequently.

Many who have suicidal thoughts are never allowed to articulate these thoughts in society, due to the stigma and taboo surrounding the subject.  Yet in a safe and non judgemental environment people can and do open up.  Sometimes, to ask someone if they feel suicidal, or if they have ever thought that suicide was an option, the relief they experience is tangible to see.

Suicide is real.  It is committed by the old and young; black and white; male and female.  It cuts across boundaries and those suffering from mental distress can be found in every corner of our society.

For those who attempt suicide, it is often a transient feeling at the depths of despair.  For those who fail in their attempt at suicide, most when asked 12 months later are happy they failed.  Their life has moved on and things change – they are now in a better place.

The more we can help those with suicidal thoughts get past this moment of despair, the more chance we have of saving lives.  Not just the lives of those who commit the act, but of their families and friends.

The truth is hard for many to come to terms with, but for most who attempt suicide, their cognitive functions are diminished. That is at the moment of attempting suicide, they are in so much pain, that they cannot think through their actions or what it would mean to their families.  Indeed many reach the     cul-de-sac of thought where there is no other option – their family would be better off without them.

This is not a thought process that could be described under the heading of “selfish”.

There are others, who have been so ill and in so much pain for so long (decades in some cases), that they do come to a decision that to end their lives is the only option for them.  In these minority of cases, who are we to judge their “selfishness”.

“Every year, around 200 people decide the best way to go is by hurling themselves in front of a speeding train.”

“In some ways they are right. This method has a 90 per cent success rate and it’s quick.”

“But it is a very selfish way to go. The disruption it causes is immense – and think what it’s like for the poor driver”

“Change the driver, pick up the big bits of what’s left of the victim, get the train moving as soon as possible and let foxy woxy and the birds nibble away at the smaller, gooey parts that are far away or hard to find.’

Jeremy Clarkson

It appears the “gooey” bits that he should be concerned about are that which is not functioning to it’s full capacity between his ears.  Or maybe the problem is that it is functioning to it’s full capacity.

In truth the only way society can move forward is when we can have a sensible and level headed debate about suicide in this country.  To reveal the inadequacies of our mental health services and to be honest about the extent of the problems we face.   Suicide must no longer be the taboo that we should never discuss, but a reality.  The less stigma and prejudice we have in society against mental illness the more people will get help for their problems and the fewer suicides we will have.

This new attitude and the end to the stigma of mental illness should please Mr Clarkson, after all, this would mean for him – fewer delays on the trains, and less of his precious time “wasted” .


Suicide, Self Harm and the NHS

I remember my school days with mixed feelings, however, I do remember certain attitudes and phrases that have lived with me or that I remember fondly or otherwise.

One such phrase was a sarcastic one which was used by my economics teacher. He always talked of the “Angels”.  Never say anything against the “Angels” he would say.

The Angels were of the course the NHS nurses.  They could do no wrong, neither could the Doctors.  Of course this is only true until a politician decides stigmatising a profession or other suits their course, but that is another story.

In the past few years I have come to see health professionals in a different light as my dealings have turned from specifically a “user” to someone who has to liaise with and discuss aspects of NHS and voluntary sector mental health services.

Suicide and Self harm are some of the most extreme actions committed by those in mental distress, and listening to the torment that those who inflict harm on themselves feel can be disturbing and heartbreaking.

It is hard for those whose experience in life does not include extreme mental anguish, anxiety and depression, to understand the mentality of taking actions that actively harms ones self.  It is perhaps beyond the logic of the “well” mind.

It is for this reason that many suffering such illnesses do not like to engage some health services.  They do not want sympathy, but perhaps respond better to empathy, from those in a position of understanding.  Indeed some experience of our health services lead people into a cycle of worse mental health as a result of that engagement with the professionals in health provision.

It is a sad thing to say, but many in the NHS do not understand or indeed care about the mental health conditions that they come into contact with on a daily basis.  It may well be a minority, but it comes up with such regularity that it is hard not to conclude it is a real problem.

The stories of those treated with a lack of respect or a lot worse can be seen all over the internet.  It is remarkable in this day and age that there is not some cross over of training to include the mentally distressed when they come into contact with other health professionals.

Stories of a person having a heart attack and being taken to hospital for treatment, to be faced with a Doctor who see’s scars of self harm and proceeds to lecture the patient and to say he did not want to treat the patient and why are they wasting their time .  Treating the patient with disrespect, disregard and insulting them.

On other occasions such treatment has led to suicide attempts.

Then there are the stories of those who attend hospital due to a self harming episode to be again insulted for “wasting” their time and deliberately making a shoddy job of the “treatment”, causing yet more anguish.

There are additional stories of refusing to use pain killing treatment because of the idea that if it hurts sufficiently they won’t come back!

Then there are those within the mental health profession themselves, who are so stretched, or that have such skewed priorities and rules that even knowing patients require help, they refuse them on the basis that a time limit has been reached.

If anyone was unaware, mental health conditions do not heal themselves to a time table.

If you would like to see the effects of some of these issues have a look at the PurpeNoise blog where some of the issues are graphically illustrated.


Some people tell me that mental health issues are no longer “stigmatised” or that our mental health provision is “a lot better than it used to be”.  The proof of the pudding as they is in the eating, and I am beginning to have my fill.

Stigmatisation is still apparent, in corners of our society that would surprise many people, and the mentally ill are still the first to be cast adrift in society when the chips are down.

If this would surprise you, then look at the details of the new Employment Support Allowance and the glee with which the tabloids miss represent stories of who is available for work following the new “assessment” procedures.

Those with depression and other mental illnesses are the least able to “shout loudest” to get what they need.  Yet the new assessments are designed exactly for this reason in mind.  It is not about need, but about saving money, no matter who suffers.

This is not political, all parties are sharing the helm on this policy, and it sickens me.

So, for the many “Angels” who do their job without prejudice and professionally, showing consideration and sympathy, please continue your superb hard work and teach the others in your profession the way human beings are supposed to behave.

Compassion is not a dirty word.

MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS INCREASE IN THE UK: 40% rise in anti-depressant prescriptions

The health news of the day is that there has been a 40% increase in prescriptions of anti-depressants .  The news bulletins are linking this to the worries about money now the economy has nose dived and unemployment is on the rise.

This however, should not be a surprise to anybody.  It is well known that when the economy falters and a recession ensues the rates of suicides increase and with it the rates of mental health problems, depression and anxiety.

Mental Health organisations like Mind, Samaritans, and  smaller mental health charities like Changes find an increase in enquiries when a recession hits.

Health services in the UK are being stretched, in the last year alone referrals for talking therapies rose four-fold to nearly 600,000, Department of Health figures show.

Suicide rates have been on the rise for some time and are approaching the 6,000 mark.  Three times the amount of people killed on the roads and nearly six times the amount of homicides in the UK, more details on these figures can be seen here.

At a time when mental health services, as inadequate as they are, are being squeezed by the cuts, as they are perceived to be the harder outcomes to definitively prove successful.

Mental Health, unlike many other illnesses is not a one stop shop.  CBT for some and anti-depressants for others, is not the way it is treated.

Early intervention is key to prevent people being sucked into a life of dysfunctionality, yet the way society and companies in our fragile economy stigmatise the mentally ill, many will not seek help until the illness is well advanced.  This is even more worrying considering the extent of the increase in anti-depressant prescriptions just over the last 4 years.

I would expect the prescription rate to rapidly increase further as the economic crisis deepens, unemployment rises and the costs of other remedies other than drugs are cut.

Sadly, none of this should be a surprise to anyone.


The weak shall inherit the earth
IAPToo good to be true
Changes Bristol
Madness What Madness?

DIARIUM MENTIS: A Diary Entry February 2011 – Another day in Paradise

Guest Author – Anonymous
A Diary Entry, struggling with depression

Today has progressively got worse. It started off with being low and gradually got worse.  By lunchtime I was in tears, uncontrollable   shaking and crying.  My head felt like it was about to implode, the pressure too much to bare. It feels like a weight baring down on my mind, severe pain that just will not relent.

I shut the curtains to keep out the light and the world’s unsympathetic gaze.  I Lay down and tried to shut out the world, the pain inside my head getting ever worse, anxiety levels high, rocking from side to side.

Eventually as so often happens my little helper is my dog.  I couldn’t ignore his whimpering anymore, I had to take him for a walk.  So I took him out  to the park.  My head still pounding and my tears still streaming, I wipe them away so as not to scare the locals.  “Keep a smile on your face”, I say to myself while still wiping away the tears.

The grey skies match my thoughts and the thick mists of my mind.  But my dog at least has a smile on his face.

My thoughts get more negative as I struggle with what is going round in my head.  Bad thoughts, deepening doubts and thoughts only of how to end the pain.  Yesterday I was fine, today I can’t function, why?

After half a mile or so I see something truly amazing.  A beautiful ray of sunshine below the deep grey mists of winter.  I think spring is coming.  I see what you see every year, but somehow today, it means much more.  I see the first flowers of spring.  Bright yellow, purple, white and orange.  Like a giant rainbow on the green lawns of the parkland.

I knelt down and studied these beautiful flowers.  Amazing natural colours that on another day I would have just walked by.  They made me smile.  The day suddenly didn’t seem so bad after all.  The tears didn’t disappear but they didn’t matter quite so much.

A small bright spot in an otherwise desperate day reminded me that like yesterdays good times, today’s bad times will pass.

This too will pass.

It keeps me going and I must remember it.


As a society we are constantly concerned with crime rates and how safe we feel on the streets. If we read many national newspapers we get the feeling we are being besieged by runaway crime statistics (even if crime appears to actually be declining). Politicians on all sides seek to exploit the public’s concerns ie) David Cameron circa 2010 general election. (Cooper, B, 2010; Tarleton, A, 2010)

Murder rates in England and Wales are running at around 1.28 homicides per 100,000 people in 2009, (the US at 5 per 100,000). The total number of murders in Scotland in 2009 to 2010 was 79 and in England and Wales 619 (total 698) (Scottish government website, 2010, Travis, A 2011)

Vast amounts of money are spent on law enforcement as a result of our fears of crime, and many of us would agree that this money is largely well spent.

Similarly, deaths on our roads continues to decrease and this has decreased again in 2009 to 2,222 falling 12%. This is all good news, and much has been spent to drive these figures down. Many campaigns showing how children can be badly hurt and the links between speed and deaths. Much money (and points on licenses) have been applied to achieve safer roads with many speed cameras on our country’s roads. Of course many more are injured on our roads.(Department for transport website, 2010)

So much money spent and so much public concern and sometimes even paranoia, yet if I had a conversation stating that I was concerned with the second biggest killer of males in the UK, and that the amount of deaths from this cause was 5,706 in 2008. 17.7 per 100,000 for males and 5.5 per 100,000 for females would people say “we must do something about this”? (ONS website, 2009)

Lets go over this again, there is a cause of death that is the second biggest killer of males and more people die from it than the amount of people who die from road traffic accidents and murder combined.

So what is it??? If I said it was a form of cancer no doubt a cry for better testing or shortening waiting lists would deafen us. What if it were heart disease? Surely more deafening cries. If I said SUICIDE, what would our reaction be?

That’s right suicide.

I don’t hear the deafening call any more. I don’t hear the calls for more to be spent on mental health services even though approximately 1 in 4 people will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime. I don’t hear politicians calling for the ring fencing of mental health services or how it is a national disgrace that so many people die from suicide.

Of course these figures like any will not be entirely accurate, many suicides even today are covered up due to the embarrassment and stigma society heaps upon this act. Doctors and coroners would prefer to not declare that death be due to suicide for the families sake. But the figures are bad enough.

I doubt if in any election for the fore-seeable future politicians will be discussing the need for more intervention/money spent to prevent suicide even though suicides are set to rise further in the difficult economic times ahead.

Suicides and attempted suicides come from the hidden depths of our society, acts that should not be talked about in open society or polite company.

It’s a great sound bite to say law and order or policing is a priority, or that to put traffic humps in urban areas is a sensible way of spending resources, these are easily voiced policy ideas that people can easily get their heads round. The unhappiness of our society, mental health and a growing underclass is a lot harder to discuss let alone do something about. It’s too difficult for the limited skills of our politicians.

I wonder how many deaths would make politicians and society sit up and take notice?  Or maybe I am just getting paranoid.

DFT, (2010), Reported road casualties main results 2009, [online], DFT website, available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/accidents/casualtiesmr/rrcgb

Cooper, B, (2010), David Cameron made to look very foolish over his claim violent crime is rising, [online], Liberal Twitter Hound website, available at http://bencooper86.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/bbc-news-made-david-cameron-look-very-foolish-over-his-claim-violent-crime-is-rising/

ONS, (2009), Suicides: UK suicides increase in 2008, [online], ONS website, available at  http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=1092&Pos=&ColRank=1&Rank=358

Scottish Government website, (2010), Homicide, [online], available at  http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/TrendHom

Tarleton, A, (2010), Did Cemeron get violent crime figures right?, [onlie], Channel 4 news website, available at  http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/did-cameron-get-his-violent-crime-statistics-right/3056

Travis, A, (2009), Murders drop to lowest level for 20 years in England and Wales, [online], Guardian website, available at  http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/21/murders-drop-home-office-figures

Travis, A, (2011), Murder rate lowest for 12 years, [online], Guardian website, available at                                      http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jan/20/murder-rate-lowest-12-years

Madness what madness?

I wrote a post a few days ago (Mental: A history of the madhouse . . . . just how much has society changed) questioning just how society has changed in respect of its attitudes to mental health. As a part of that post I alluded to anecdotal evidence of people I know being harmed by the new process of assessment to access benefits.

Then came an amazing post at http://purple-noise.blogspot.com/ which just knocks you out with the honesty and immediacy of how much harm the assessment procedure can do to an individual. In short, this can affect the very  life of an individual. These health reforms and the urge to reduce costs can literally be a matter of life and death.

Torment is inflicted by those who are supposed to be the “great and the good”, (a largely privileged class) making reforms not on the basis of need but to satisfy Daily Mail headlines, ideology or monetary concerns.

Ali’s blog shows the heartbreak of a society that doesn’t care. Yet the reaction to it by those who have experience of mental health shows the great humanity that does exist by those that really understand the issues and what humanity is about.

My previous blog post also alluded to the rise of suicides in dark economic times, but with deliberate social upheavel created by a government deliberately attacking the welfare system, this will create greater stress on those with mental distress.

The madness seems always to be with those at the upper echelons of society, rather than with the rest of us. It always seems that the first port of call for politicians on the “reform” path is to take away the humanity and civility of our society and to put a price on it.

Other bloggs of note on this subject