All the media attention this week highlighting suicide has led me to thinking about the times when I was at the point of wanting to end my life, its been really inspiring this week to hear of the current campaign in the UK to ‘Find Mike’ . The campaign is a search by Jonny Benjamin for the person who helped him in his hour of need which prevented him from committing suicide in 2008 so he can now say Thank You face to face.
Its heart warming to hear that in Jonny’s case someone did stop and did help, but how many times do people just keep walking on by someone who is clearly distressed and in need of help whether suicidal or not, it seems society has lost in some ways the human touch of reaching out to those in need. Now I know that it is not everyone who has become like this many people will stop and ask if someone is ok, or if they need help, but isn’t it something that we should all do?
Not many years ago I walked the same path that Jonny did, I would make the decision to take my life make a plan and then when I was able to I would act upon it, there were many times when people simply ignored me or just walked on by. In 2006 I travelled by train to the place where I had decided I would simply take my pills and go to sleep, it was a special place for me and held memories dear to my heart so in my illogical and irrational state it seemed a logical thing to do. The journey involved some 100 miles and 3 train journeys, I was dressed totally inappropriately for the weather, a lack of medication had caused me to have side effects so there I was on a busy train in the height of summer wearing a thick winter coat, carrying a teddy and a huge blanket for extra warmth. I was deeply distressed, sobbing for most of the journey, I can recall sitting on the first train hoping no one would notice me, and no one did not even the train staff who just walked on by, they didn’t even ask for a ticket, though I did have one. The other passengers kept a safe distance, in fact I was aware that people were avoiding me, there were seats across from me and next to me and yet they remained empty whilst people stood. But no one asked was I ok, did I need help, no everyone decided avoidance was the best course of action.
The second train was jammed to full and people did sit near me, but not once did any of those passengers ask if I needed help or was I ok, I remember losing time on the journey drifting in and out of awareness and struggling to just keep focused upon my mission in hand, being out in public was causing me massive anxiety and I wasn’t in any position to manage those symptoms of panic. As we got nearer to my destination I remember feeling a sense of calm as I realised I wasn’t far from my then goal. I arrived at the station in a large northern city and I was absolutely thrown into confusion when I found a small station I had previously used and was my final, final point, had been decommissioned, trains were no longer running there. I remember wandering around lost, confused and in sheer panic as I realised I couldn’t think how else to get to the final point, I must have looked a sight and yet not one person stopped.
I sat on a bench in the station because I felt so faint and weak, the side effects of withdrawal were really kicking in, I had been missing doses of my medication for a while as i needed to store supplies for this final mission, so on that day I had none, and had gone for over 24 hours with no medication. As I sat there people walked by, oblivious I think to this women who sat a few feet from their path and was crying and shaking and struggling with life, I tried to rationalise my thinking in the hope of finding a solution to get me to my final point, but my head was also busy dealing with trying to ignore the vibrations from my phone as my family frantically tried to make contact, I had been gone a number of hours and the family had by now realised I was missing, I didn’t want to switch it off, as on it was the picture of the people I loved the most and that matter to me, so in an absolute frenzy of confusion and turmoil I decided I would walk the rest of the journey.
Thankfully it was at this point someone decided to intervene, it wasn’t the people of my age nor the train station staff who took action, but a young woman who simply marched over to the bench, bent down to my level and asked gentle was I ok, because I didn’t look ok and she thought I might need help.
Looking back I estimate hundreds if not more people had either seen me on my journey or passed by the bench, they had all ignored me, or more likely avoided me. This one persons act saved my life and gave me a future that i enjoy today, yes it probably took her a great deal of courage to approach a random stranger clearly upset and behaving in an odd manner. Many people might have thought of the potential risk implications, but I doubt whether that even crossed her mind because the way she approached the situation and took charge of it showed compassion and understanding, it was as if she knew what I was thinking and she knew I needed help.
There were many times before her intervention and a few after, were people walked on by and didn’t choose to help, not that I wanted them to stop back then, but my family desperately wanted people to stop me. They desperately wanted me to live, to see that life was worth living and fighting for, to see that I wasn’t the burden that I felt I was to them. Many times it was the police who came to mine and my family’s rescue, they would find me and intervene and help me on the journey back towards life.
Looking back I can see that so many people did walk by, turned the other cheek and decided it wasn’t their problem so they wouldn’t get involved. I know how I would react to those situations today I certainly wouldn’t walk by, I’d help in any way I could no matter what the risk, for I would see the person as someones wife, mother, husband, father, son or daughter with a life worth fighting for, a life that is worth going that one extra step.
You see without those people who did help, did show concern, genuine concern, I would not be writing this blog, I wouldn’t have seen the sun rise this morning or hear the singing of birds, nor would I have seen my children graduate or celebrate their 18th or 21st birthdays. I wouldn’t have got to enjoy the many happy times I have been blessed to share with my family since those dark days. I owe all of those people who did help and/or intervene so much, that words seem simply inadequate, I know I will always be grateful for their efforts and their help and I hope they realise just how much their willingness to step in and help, means to me and my family.
I now know that suicide is not the panacea those in distress think it is, it doesn’t solve anything in fact it just robs you of a future and the right to happiness.
Please if you see someone who is clearly distressed, clearly needs help or you even think might need help, don’t you owe it to them and to yourself to stop and ask, a few simple words are all it takes and you could save someones life, If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the person at least get help from someone who can. Your actions are critical and tomorrow it might be someone who you love who needs that kind of help, every victim of suicide is someones relative and the impact of suicide is vast.
Don’t assume someone else will stop, because I know from my own experience that If that young woman had walked on past that June day its highly unlikely anyone else would have stopped?