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In their shoes

With our #intheirshoes campaign we are encouraging you to help break down the barriers and start talking openly about suicide. Suicide doesn’t discriminate, it can affect everyone.

The Stay Alive app is full of useful information and tools to help you stay safe in crisis.
You can use it if you are having thoughts of suicide or if you are concerned about someone else who may be considering suicide.

Find out more about the app on Grassroots, preventing suicide together.

Learn how to start your conversation with the free online training course from Zero Suicide Alliance.

Patient Stories

Mark Dale is 45 and lives in Basildon. Here he shares his story:

“A number of incidents led to me attempting to take my life. One was the death of my father and another was being given very short notice that I had to leave the family home I had shared with him. Around the same time I was the victim of a hate crime which left me with life threatening injuries. The amalgamation of these events led to me becoming very depressed and unwell. 

“My life became something of nothingness. I have family but they have families of their own so I didn't want to burden them with how I was feeling. I felt useless and worthless to the point that life had no meaning to me.

“When I attempted to take my life I went somewhere I knew. At a time of feeling so low it was in my mind as a place to go. I had every intention of ending my life. I even wrote a note to my family explaining why. However what I didn't know was that someone had seen me and called the police.

“When the police arrived, an officer told me he had attended many suicides and that even though I was hell bent that suicide was the right thing at that time, it destroyed the lives of those left behind.

Of course I was stuck in the mind set that it was the best course of action, but eventually I capitulated and left with the officer.

“I sought help after that. I was helped by therapy and a mental health team.  It took a long time for me to believe anything in life was worth living for. However slowly life became important again and I
now speak about my experience at inductions for new staff joining EPUT.

“To anyone contemplating suicide, I would say that you can get help. The decision to seek it is a tough one but it is there. It really is like a light being switched off or broken, but it can be fixed. To anyone who just can’t see any alternative, look at where I have been and where I am now. Of course everyone’s experience and journey is unique but I survived and I had no idea then that I would be here now telling my story like this.

“To anyone who is thinking of or has even attempted taking their life, the truth is there is a long road ahead. Times will be hard and those feelings will come back at times, however there is a reason you survived the darkest of times. If you can survive that, you can do anything.

“I have downloaded the Stay Alive app mainly so it’s there as an aid if life gets on top of me.  We live in an age where most people have a smart phone. The app is so quick to access and could help change someone’s decision from thinking that ending their life is the best option to surviving and taking back control.

“I go on now living day by day and sometimes hour by hour. I have good support from my mental health team, local GP and family.”

Couple backs Trust’s suicide campaign exactly eight years to the day since their son took his own life

September 10, 2019

Jenny and Andrew Sutton’s son, Ben, took his own life exactly eight years ago today – World Suicide Prevention Day. He was 20 years old.

Ben’s body was found at Hadleigh Castle in his favourite clothes and among his most special possessions: his phone, iPod, a book – Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman – an empty can of Guinness and some Jack Daniel’s whisky.

“I just screamed,” said Jenny, describing the moment police broke the news. “I felt like somebody had just ripped out my insides, as though my soul had gone.

“I had strived to be married and to be a mum. I had just got my first baby through his education and it was all taken away.”

Andrew felt numb. Henry, the family’s cocker spaniel, refused to eat and remained in his bed, reviving only after being taken to visit Ben’s body in a chapel of rest.

The hundreds of relatives, friends and acquaintances, who joined his parents and sister, Sophie, at Ben’s funeral in Great Burstead days later, could not understand why such a popular, intelligent and handsome man had taken his own life.

To most of the world, especially the customers Ben helped in his part-time job at Waitrose, although not to Jenny and Andrew, the Billericay student was an empathetic joker – “the life and soul” – not the sad, troubled, hyper-sensitive soul who found some relationships difficult, had no self-worth, and battled with his desire not to conform.

But even his parents were fooled by the mask of happiness he wore when he saw them for the last time, insisting: “Don’t worry about me because I’m going out with one of my friends. I’m feeling much better.”

“That night was the best we had slept for a long time,” said Andrew.

But their son, who had previously been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, had been consumed by “the darkness”, as his father called it, and knew the drug overdose he planned to take would ensure he was lost to them forever.

Eight years on, Jenny, 56, and Andrew, 54, have adjusted to their “new normal”, “saved” as they put it, by their temporary involvement in the Dartford branch of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), and their later decision to set up the charity’s Brentwood branch, which they still run.

The couple’s message to the 30 people who attend their monthly meetings also applies to those who are considering taking their own lives.

“Things change, people change, situations change and your feelings can change,” said Andrew. There is, he and his wife say, always hope.

Both are supporting the Trust’s bid to encourage staff, patients and the public to download free suicide prevention app Stay Alive from the App Store.

Created by Grassroots Suicide Prevention, the app includes rapid access to EPUT’s crisis service telephone numbers; advice about staying safe; information on helping people in need; and details about suicide myths.

“Ben had nothing like the app,” said Andrew. “If it had been an option when he was struggling, it might have just put him in a better place.

“What we find with the SOBS group is that for people who take their lives, it’s often a few issues that make them come to that decision.

“One thing that’s slightly better could change their decision on the day, and the app could be that thing.”

Andrew and Jenny are also backing the Trust’s call for people to complete the Zero Suicide Alliance’s 20-minute online training course.

“It’s very easy to brush suicide under the carpet and think it’s not going to happen to me or anyone in my family,” said Jenny.

“The Trust’s campaign can only be good and improve things.”

Liz is 48 and lives in Coggeshall, Essex.

She is “100%” behind the Trust’s suicide awareness and prevention campaign, which is encouraging people to download the free Stay Alive app and complete the Zero Suicide Alliance’s 20-minute online training course.

Here, she describes her journey from the darkness of suicidal thoughts to the light of better mental health. It’s an inspirational story which tells of the human mind’s incredible powers of recovery.

“I had two different times when I wanted to take my own life, from two different ends of the spectrum."

"The first was when I went into a psychotic episode and lost complete rationalisation of my brain."

"I was convinced I had magical powers and was the sister of Jesus. I was in a euphoric state and wanted to stop a train by using my hand, and it would be okay as I would be resurrected being who I was."

"If it wasn’t for the fact my manager at the time spotted the symptoms of mania and called my parents who took me to the hospital and I was sectioned, I would have taken my own life."

“I was in hospital for a month where they injected me with drugs."

“When I was discharged I lost everything and had to go back and live with my parents who looked after me."

“They had to watch me 24/7 as I wanted to end my own life again by jumping in front of a train."

“I lost all motivation and remained in bed for two weeks staring at a tree. I didn’t wash or eat and it felt like a black cloak had been pulled over my head."

“My mind was blank of any thought. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be alive anymore."

“Without the constant encouragement of my parents and my mum coming up to see me every night and promising me things would get better, I don’t know whether I would have survived."

“It took me 10 months to return to some kind of normal working function."

“Unfortunately, I was in denial for many years and was sectioned numerous times after that first episode."

“I then started to take hold of the situation and started to take my medication regularly, gave up alcohol and changed my lifestyle. I started to meditate, practice mindfulness, spend more time in the fresh air and go for long walks with the dogs."

“I researched about the bipolar condition and learned lots. I attended cognitive behavioural therapy courses and group therapy to help me on the road to recovery."

“I started to look after myself and eat healthily and get a good night’s sleep, which was fundamental with my condition."

“If I knew someone who was thinking of taking their own life I would say talk to some-one about how you feel, don’t bottle up your emotions as you will realise that you are not alone in what you are thinking."

“I would also encourage them to seek help, whether it was face-to-face or online. There are lots of helpful websites now which offer support and guidance to suit each individual."

“I would share my experience and give them hope, saying things will get better and that I am living proof of that."

“If someone insisted that suicide was their only option and that there was no form of help available, I would again use my scenario and say that that is what I thought initially, but that there is lots of help out there."

“I would also offer to show them where they could find this information. However, before that I would call the ambulance or police and get them to a safe place to ensure their own safety. The other options could be discussed later."

“If I could say something to help someone begin their recovery I would say research what suits you the best. Look for something which you enjoy and will help whether it is visual, reading or listening."

“I would say work out what is your kind of help and learning; join groups where people have the same problems – these can help – but also join self-care groups and mind-set groups to help you see things from a different perspective. I would say learn a new skill, get more exercise and calm the mind through meditation.”

Emma’s ex-husband took his life Christmas Day 2017.

He spent two days on life support before doctors advised his family there was no more they could do and that they would need to let him go.

He and Emma’s son was 14 and their daughter 17. He was 38.

This is Emma’s story in her own words.

"When someone is unwell or elderly you have the opportunity to prepare for that person passing and can plan things such as how to celebrate their life.

A suicide is so sudden and we were put in a position where we really didn’t have time to think about anything and a lot of the information we were given was hard to process.

Having to make a quick decision around a question such as, ‘would you like to donate any organs?’ is hard to even comprehend when two weeks ago the person was out celebrating their birthday in fancy dress.

And I guess that’s part of why it is so hard to accept because he fooled everyone into thinking he was doing okay. This had a knock-on effect on my daughter and I as we then began questioning ourselves, wondering if we should have noticed something was wrong. And then the blame kicked in.

I started thinking I shouldn’t have moaned at him on the phone three days before Christmas. I should have hugged him harder the last time I saw him.

I felt guilty for not helping him more when he was finding things hard. And even though so many people have said to me there was nothing I could have done, I still torment myself over it.

It has affected my sleep, my concentration and my studying/work. I wake up with a racing heartbeat or in tears regularly due to dreaming about him being on life support. The image of him with wires attached and have a seizure on a hospital bed is not something that can easily be forgotten.

I often find myself thinking about him when I’m driving and I have to distract myself with the radio and sing a song so I can stop thinking about it because it makes me panic.

If anything comes up about suicide at work, or I’m at university and there is a discussion on suicide or hypoxic brain injury, I find myself looking for the nearest door. I can’t concentrate on that subject without relating it to my ex-husband and then causing a feeling of anxiety.

The impact it has had on my daughter has been huge.

She started to wonder why she wasn’t enough of a reason for him to live. She still feels like that. She’s also angry. Angry that it was at Christmas and now each year it is just a reminder of what happened; angry that he took away her chance to spend one Christmas with her.

It has also had an impact on her mental health. She became depressed and anxious and had to see a counsellor and start taking medication. She doesn’t sleep properly and still struggles to talk about it. She is a nursery assistant and the children in her class often ask about her ‘daddy in the sky’. She can’t get away from it. Every Christmas, every Father’s Day she will be grieving all over again.

And there is so much in the media now around suicide, especially male. It’s a constant reminder to her that she lost him.

My daughter now hates me going away without her as she worries something will happen to me because I am now her only living biological parent. She feels panicky that she could be without any parents.

Suicide slows down the grieving process because it leaves so many unanswered questions. It leaves people feeling guilty, angry and regretful and those things make it harder to move on and to accept what has happened.

I understand he wasn’t well and was fighting his own demons. I don’t think he thought about the impact it would have on anyone. I don’t think he thought about changing Christmas for us. I don’t think he would have thought about his daughter having to see him attached to machines and watch him pass away and the impact that will have on the rest of her life. I don’t think he thought about his sister losing her big brother or his mother burying her first-born child.
But him feeling like he had no other option has impacted the lives of his family and friends forever."

Nicky is 54 and lives near Brentwood. She is backing the Trust’s suicide awareness and prevention campaign, particularly its efforts to encourage people to download the Stay Alive app, a free suicide prevention self-help tool.

“I support the app because we are in a very technical age and anything that can help in any way is a huge benefit and a good thing,” she says.

“I think people should know it's a good thing to use the app and not a sign of weakness."

“If it helps someone it can't be bad. I think it probably will be more of a help to the younger generation, mostly."

“I don't know if I would have had the confidence to use it during the state of mind that I was in when I was feeling suicidal."

“People need to know it’s there, i.e. in schools, places of work, doctors’ surgeries, hospitals and the people who work in the services.”

The following is Nicky’s story in her own words.

"Being adopted at a young age, I grew up in a happy adoptive family but always wondered about my birth family. I eventually traced my birth mother and we met and kept in touch.

I only met her twice in 12 years but we kept in touch by letter at first, then phone calls and eventually email. I learned that I had six other siblings, although I never met them.

I planned to go and meet my birth mother and asked to meet any of the siblings who wanted to meet me. This was something I had been thinking about for a long time. Contact wasn't always easy for both of us.

Two days after I returned from a holiday, I got letter from one of my siblings. I was happy because I thought it was a letter from them wanting to make contact with me.

The letter started off talking about how my mother had talked about me over the years since I'd first made contact. The next paragraph told me that sadly my birth mother had died of a massive heart attack and gave me details of when the funeral would take place and said I would be welcome.

This was a very big shock and it was hard to go to the funeral not knowing anybody and meeting my siblings for the first time.

After that I kept in touch with one of my sisters and two of my brothers. I had most contact with my sister and we met up and spoke to each other daily. She wrote letters to me explaining her life and her family life and also telling little stories about other relatives. I found the letters very interesting and was happy to receive them.

But I found it very hard to talk to anyone in my family or among my friends because most of them didn't know of the contact I had had with my birth mother.

I had no one to talk to about my grief and the loss of someone I had already lost over 40 years ago. I didn't realise I was struggling with grief and loss but everything seemed to get harder and harder. I felt like I was becoming worthless because no one seemed to acknowledge I had suffered a loss.

Five months later it was coming up to Christmas and I was about to go to do some Christmas shopping. I got ready to go but suddenly it was all too much for me and I couldn't cope. I thought nobody cared about how I felt and that I was invisible and worthless.

I was unable to do anything constructive so I lay down and cried and shouted, ‘I don't want to be me and want to be dead’. [It was then that Nicky tried to take her own life.]

My husband found me lying on the floor and he called the doctor and my friend. The doctor helped me and I got a leaflet from the doctor’s about someone I could talk to and about making appointments to see someone in Brentwood.

My friend asked if they could get someone to come and see me straight away and the doctor said ‘no’. I went to see someone in Brentwood just before Christmas.

Just over a week after New Year my friend encouraged me to ring the place in Brentwood as I hadn't heard anything from them. A couple of days later I did this and the lady l spoke to said it was a bit too early and that I should give it a couple more weeks before I could expect to hear anything. In my head what I actually thought she said was, ‘there's many more people who need help than you. You're not that important, you’re worthless’.

I was doing some cleaning in my friend's house that morning and I realised that I was not getting anything done. I had taken too much time to do nothing. I started hitting myself in the face and when my nose began to bleed I knew I had to get out of my friend's house as quickly as possible. I managed to get home.

I don't really know what I did but I knew I was running around shouting ‘I hate myself’ and ‘I want to be dead, I want to die, I want to be dead’. [It was then that Nicky tried once again to take her own life.] This time I ended up in Broomfield Hospital for three days and at Basildon Mental Health Unit for a day and a night.

I did art therapy for two hours a week at Basildon Hospital but unfortunately that was cut short. I also did talking therapy but the last lady I spoke to said she wasn't qualified to talk about adoption issues because that involved a specialist form of counselling and I would be better to look for a private counsellor.

I also joined Fitness in Mind in Brentwood which helped me very much. I am still going to sports activities and also have a very good friend who got me involved in things. She knows how much I can do and when I'm unable to do something because of my anxiety.

I have found a private counsellor who I get on with very well. She is a godsend. I have been seeing her for more than two years and she completely understands where I'm coming from and helps me by giving me information that I would not be able to get anywhere else.

She is private and in the past it has been quite difficult to find the money to pay for her. I have now got funding from my personal health budget for the next six months for me to see her every two weeks. I am really pleased and thankful for this.

To anyone considering suicide I would say, ‘whatever it is that's making you feel this way, there is help you can get and even if you don't know how to put into words what or why you feel the way you do, you can get help. You don't have to explain anything. Start with just telling someone you need help. You are important and you do matter’.

If the person insisted that they wanted to take their own life I would try to tell them their life was important and that they could get help no matter what. If it was a family member or friend I would be there to help them every step I could to make sure that someone was on their side if they couldn't get the help they needed straight away.

Having someone to support you and regularly talk to you about the stages of your care or how things are going and when things are going to happen is important.

If you ring for help and a week or two passes but no one gets back to you to tell you what is going on and asking how you're getting on and when to expect the next meeting etc., that's when you think you're not important enough to be helped. You get into that big dark hole and you can't get out. You think there is only one option.

Stick with it if the care you are receiving is helping. You are going to get somewhere. If the care isn’t helping, try some other means of help, whatever is offered. Question things and make sure you are happy with what is happening with your care, but to stick with it as it will work out for you and help you see a way forward. Also, many doors may open for you that you hadn’t yet realised were there."

Messages of support

October 2, 2019

A nurse who heads a Trust mental health service for military veterans has urged people thinking of taking their own lives to talk to someone.

“Two or three minutes of conversation could save your life,” said David Powell, lead of the East Anglia Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS).

“Just pick up the phone and have a chat, even if it’s with the milkman, the lady next door or the guy you buy your newspaper from. Have that interaction.”

David spoke as he backed the Trust’s suicide awareness and prevention campaign, which is urging people to download the free self-help app Stay Alive and complete the 20-minute online training course offered by the Zero Suicide Alliance.

“People who are lonely, sad and demoralised see no hope, but conversation costs nothing and can make the difference,” said the former lance corporal, who is based at The Lakes mental health unit on the site of Colchester General Hospital.

“It’s about having the belief to get through the next five minutes, then the next 10, and then the next hour.

“They can then phone one of the numbers in their back pocket or use the Stay Alive app to talk to someone who knows what they are talking about.”

David’s team helps ex-servicemen and women who have either been discharged from the Armed Forces with mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, or who encounter these problems later in life.

Although their clients may feel paralysed by pride, fear of failure or a mistaken belief they are letting people down, the service helps them find therapy for their trauma and reintegrates them into Civvy Street.

“Every life is worth it, whatever one person may think at a particular point in time,” said David, a clinical lead nurse specialist who has worked for the Trust for 20 years.

“It’s worth it for what that person has done, what they are doing and what they are going to do.”

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