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08 September 2022

You are not alone: my experience of suicidal thoughts

This World Suicide Prevention Day, a member of the Shout team shares her personal experience of suicidal thoughts, the journey she's been on and how Shout helps people to find hope and connection.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am married, a mother, and I work in the field of mental health. Whilst I’m often seen as someone in the forefront, I’m actually quite the introvert. I love the work I do at Shout and have a real passion for people. I enjoy learning by experience - which is often learning the hard way! But it also means that I've journeyed alongside other people and I am immensely humbled by the courage, resilience and vulnerability I’ve had the privilege of experiencing through others.

Can you tell us about your experience of suicide?

I grew up with several adverse childhood experiences and unfortunately didn’t have the appropriate personal or professional support in place. I spent much of my teen life in and out of schools, lost in the care system, self-harming and battling suicidal ideation. My coping mechanisms were alcohol and drugs by day, and I was tormented by night. It was an overwhelming cycle that there only seemed to be one way to break free from.

My self-harm and attempts on my life only grew into my early 20s and, at the point of hospitalisation, I was given several diagnoses including BPD (borderline personality disorder) and C-PTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder). I was used to taking risks with my life but the last serious attempt in 2009 had significant consequences for my life and family, and shocked me into the reality of just how far I had taken things and how disconnected I had become from everything, including my young children at the time.

On reflection, I don’t believe I truly wanted to die. I was exhausted, I was very isolated despite being surrounded by people, and I was carrying around a lot of ‘stuff’ that I had no clue how to deal with. This caused me great isolation and rapidly deteriorating mental and physical health.

What support did you receive and what did you find most helpful?

I received temporary inpatient care as an adult in a mental health hospital, and then accessed community support. I then embarked on a journey of self-exploration which included faith and various kinds of therapy. I had many obstacles to overcome, rehabilitation to engage with, and the greatest challenge was self-love and acceptance.

The most helpful thing on my journey was having the opportunity to come alongside others; whether in group sessions, hospital appointments or sitting with a homeless person on the streets and just hearing them out.

For me, being able to help someone else through a moment of crisis supported me along my own healing journey. My own journey has helped me to remain humble, hopeful, open and connected. It helped to realign my focus and to hold hope for people, even when their own hope faded, and eventually it led me to Shout.

Can you describe how your work at Shout helps people?

My role at Shout gives me a chance to be that person for someone that I didn’t have. We take conversations with hundreds of people who contact Shout with suicidal thoughts every day. I get to come alongside amazing people from all walks of life, whether skilled clinicians, selfless volunteers or courageous texters. I get the opportunity to talk to them, hear their stories, care for them, be alongside them as they experience a range of emotions from anger to sadness to moments of joy. To sit in their pain with them, and try to find solutions alongside them. I consider every invitation into the lives of others a privilege.

Speaking to somebody even just one time can be enough to help a texter feel heard and supported. It can help them make an important connection with another human being and with their own story. It could even save a life.

What advice would you give to someone who has thoughts of suicide?

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s important to remember that you are not alone and that there is support available for you. Sometimes it can be easier to text than to say the words out loud, which is where Shout can help. It’s free to text Shout and speak to a trained volunteer, in confidence, at any time of day or night.

What Shout offers in terms of 24/7 accessibility and a welcoming, safe space for anyone to access help and be heard, is containing and life-saving. Had a service like this been available for me, I would have used it. It may have decreased negative coping mechanisms and would have strengthened my support system.

I'm always touched by learning just how much Shout helps individuals. I know the service is making a difference, especially to those who would otherwise feel unable to access help, and I feel proud to be a part of the team.

Shout is there for moments when you are dealing with suicidal thoughts and need support to get to a calmer place. Text SHOUT to 85258 to start a conversation with a trained volunteer.

If your life is at imminent risk, please call 999 immediately.