**Trigger warning: contains references to suicide**

For World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 we are sharing some very brave stories from our Champions who emphasise the importance of speaking out about your mental health in order to remove the stigma around seeking help if you have suicidal thoughts.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with my mental health though it has never defined who I am. I have had great years and bad ones too and it is during the bad times I have come to understand the importance of talking and having these conversations.

It took a long time for me to realise that something was different. I suppose when you live with the way you feel each day you never fully acknowledge that you may be feeling and thinking differently to other people. You get into the mind-set that everyone is the same and unless you ask, you do not understand that your way of thinking may be different. I went through many challenging episodes from being in my late teens, and even though they made me sad at the time, I did not realise they were pushing me into a downward spiral. I just never talked to anyone and continued to try to be normal for those around me. I was not sure who to talk to or how to even start that conversation and I felt ashamed and unable to find the words to explain.

10 years ago, I hit a brick wall when I experienced a family bereavement that would rock my world more than I could ever have imagined. I have never really experienced a loss so close; 2 years later my own marriage fell apart leading to divorce, financial and emotional difficulties. The effects these episodes had on me were the icing on the cake, so I began the long journey down into a deep depression. I started to realise that I was not functioning the way I used to – I no longer recognised the girl looking back at me in the mirror. I lost the enthusiasm for life and I forgot what made me happy. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I didn’t want to bathe, I didn’t want to do or be anything. Again, I did not tell anyone at this stage, I continued to push myself, exhausted with life. I put on a front that was nothing but a huge lie. I managed a few more weeks until one night in the early hours I had a full mental breakdown.

That moment will never leave me, and I can remember losing all control of my emotions, feelings and thoughts. It was quite surreal really and horrific and something you have to experience to gain a full understanding of. I became severely depressed with debilitating anxiety – I even lost the ability to walk for a while as my legs just would not function and I was so very low I did not want to be around anymore. “Not wanting to be around anymore” came into my thoughts frequently as the pain was too much to bear. I remember asking myself how it had come to this point but the amalgamation of so many traumas had taken its toll.

So began a 2-year journey of recovery. I remember I cried constantly for about 6 months and I remember asking my mum at the time if tears ever dry out as surely there was no water left in me to cry. I had many relapses, but I accepted them and knew that if I did not talk to my support network, I would not get through and I had many reasons to live.

A long slow journey that required the care of crisis teams and various types of counselling – never in my life had I felt as unwell as I did during this time. A life changing experience; one that changed my whole perspective on life and one that made me a different person. As I began my journey of recovery, one thing became apparent to me quite early on; if I had sought help sooner and talked earlier and not pushed myself, I would not have got to this stage. I had underestimated the power of talking throughout my life. As soon as I began working with counsellors, I realised that this was going to be my lifeline. As difficult as it was, I knew I had to open up in order to get myself well.

It goes without saying that talking saved my life. As soon as I spoke about not wanting to be here anymore, I instantly felt a lift – like I had shared my thoughts and it was ok to now talk about the way I was feeling. That conversation was a game changer, someone now knew how I felt and did not judge me or frown at me – they wanted to help, and that feeling was euphoric!

My life now is a very happy one and I am very well – but I learnt so much about having conversations about suicide.

I now spend my working day helping others to understand that it’s ok to not be ok and that reaching out when things get particularly tough is fine. I did not know what opportunities were available in the early days of my depression, so I understand the importance of having that one person there to guide you in the right direction. I encourage people to seek support – be it a manager in work, a colleague, a friend, a family member or a GP. I also signpost to the many mental health organisations we have in this country, who offer the best resources to guide people to help.

If you find yourself feeling suicidal please reach out – there are people who care and who are willing to support, you and get you the help you need with no judgement. You are not alone and like me, you can get through it, recover and get your life back to exactly where you want it to be.

I am living proof that conversations about suicide can save lives. 

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