“Because We Are Your Friends, You’ll Never Be Alone Again”

27th September 2016. 4:43pm.

Some details you never, ever, forget.

I’d just got off the bus from work. I was in the lead up to #ISBF3 – merely 2 weeks away in fact – and I was in a direct message conversation with a lovely lady about beer supply. (I retain the conversation – it’s an inextricable PART of me now)

5 minutes later, beer didn’t matter. I was vainly trying to resuscitate my son.

I have a notoriously poor memory for detail. But some things….. They just burn in, you know.

In just over 2 weeks, it will be four years.

These images are taken from an event I attended last night, hosted by START Inspiring Minds (the charity partners of #ISBF6 & #VISBF) at the rear of Salford City Hall. To commemorate World Suicide Prevention Day.

Because suicide IS preventable.

As someone who suffers ill mental health – and a survivor of bereavement by suicide (I believe that is the correct term) – I’m acutely aware of the impact that isolation can have on the psyche. That is one of the key factors (for me at least) in the lead up to clinical depression, self – isolating. Wearing that mask that everything is “normal”. When it’s not. It’s FAR from normal. And isolating yourself, hiding those feelings and thoughts, feels so, SO easy….

……. So much easier than talking.

And one of the lessons HAMMERED home (to me) last night was that talking. About suicide. About the darkness that is felt. And that talking is two way. Sometimes it needs initiating by a family member, by a friend. It’s SO ******g hard. But it’s so right. It can save lives.

I’m a talker. “No shit, Sherlock” my friends would say. But talking is what gets me through. It’s what I know works. It certainly works for me. And it was one of the key themes from last night. The statistics are grim – and judging from the local names commemorated last night, they’re not just men of a certain age. The number of women shocked me – but lives can be saved.

Another key theme was the stigma attached to suicide. The shame attached to thoughts of “the act” rendering people unable to talk about how they feel. But confronting how you feel, talking with someone (be it Samaritans, START, CALM, or a friend or family member) is the start. The start of learning how to want to live.

Shit. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have many at all. If I did, that gobby little handsome git, that talented, giving left wingback would be asleep upstairs now. And yes, it goes without saying that I miss him every day. That hurt never leaves you.

But I don’t want that feeling again. Another part of my heart closed off, because a friend chooses the same path. Trust me, you wouldn’t want that either.

So talk. And listen. And talk again. These life skills are SO underrated. And so bloody important.

Last night won’t heal me. But I was astonished by the power. The power of words. In poetry, in song, in speeches. It was, quite simply, a magnificent event, put together by Bernadette and the team at START.

Powerful enough to drag these words out of me.

If you are in a dark place – and I know that some are – there are resources available. People you can speak to. When I notice a friend – or acquaintance – struggling, my number is proffered. And that’s not something I do lightly. But, you know what, I’d rather get that call at whatever time, than the possible alternative.

Don’t suffer in silence.

“Because We Are Your Friends. You’ll Never Be Alone Again……..”