The world is a different place to me now. Loss is a horrible thing to deal with at the best of times but i’m in a peculiar situation at the moment. My dear brother Tom has taken his own life. Whilst it is still weird and hard to write those words down, they take me to a place in my head where only Tom exists. It’s like a library of thoughts and memories. To miss someone you love is normal but the weird feeling is he’s still here, living on in my memory, a perfect carbon copy of exactly how I remember him. Just like a library I can scroll through and pick out a specific memory and replay it and it’s like he’s still here in the room with me. When I first got the news of Tom’s suicide, I just wanted to pick up the phone to him and hear his voice. I couldn’t process what had happened, as I hadn’t seen his body it’s almost like it wasn’t real in my head. I also had a long period of time where if I tried to think about him, I couldn’t remember what his voice sounded like and that was heartbreaking.
We’re lucky that we live in an age of videos and pictures I suppose, as they act as a kind of therapy for someone in my position. Being able to see and hear someone from beyond the grave is a treasure like no other. It’s surreal to think that this person was here and then suddenly not. It’s more upsetting to me now to think of all the milestones that he’s not going to be here for. He’ll never get to meet my children in the future, no more birthdays or Christmas’ together, no more boy’s day outs, even just sitting watching old films together which was a favourite past time. (Anyone who knows us properly will know that we would usually quote the entire film word for word!) The videos help to re-immerse yourself into their character, little traits or how they laughed, build the picture up clearer in your head, almost as if you have to reconstruct them. It all helps when dealing with something as big as this.
It’s no secret now that Tom struggled with mental health issues for a long time previous to his suicide. The main aim of this post is to open up slightly about what it’s like to be left behind or left in the wake of a suicide. I won’t bamboozle you too much with facts but there are some astounding figures that i’d like to share. 3/4 of all suicides in the UK are male. 3/4. Try to wrap your head around that. Even though statistically, suicides have steadily been decreasing over a number of years, due to more coverage and availability of information, it’s still massively high. The most suicides actually took place in the 40-44 year old age bracket. You could account some of those down to ‘mid-life crisis’ which would still come under mental illness. Mental illness comes in many shapes and sizes, some you can see like Stress and Addiction. Some you can’t like Depression and Social Anxiety. There is a broad spectrum and in varying doses. Just because someone says they’re fine, doesn’t actually mean they are. Almost all of these people suffer in silence, sometimes to avoid becoming a burden to people or maybe because they haven’t even realised they have a problem.
I’ve had plenty of time to process what has happened and have made my peace with it. This was definitely made easier by seeing his body and getting a bit of closure in my head, even though it was a harrowing experience and will stay with me for life. But now that it’s done, I feel that something should be done. All I see in regards to mental health are people raising awareness, which is good. However, i’d like to try and make a change. I don’t want to set a precedent because it’s massively annoying when people jump on bandwagons and in the era of ‘inclusivity’, I don’t want to see my idea twisted and used for other things. I will be writing to my MP and to the Prime Minister to ask for a specific number to be set up that you can call, almost like the emergency number 999. I understand you have people like Samaritans already doing a great job but if you were to ask me their phone number I couldn’t tell you. They should make it short, personally I like the idea of 4357 as it spells out HELP on the keypad, which is easy to remember. With the right education and targeting this could save a huge amount of lives. It would make a statement of intent that we as a nation are taking mental health seriously. It might be a tad too far but i’d like to see the phone companies getting on board too, maybe every phone sold should have 4357 saved in the handset memory/ contacts of every new phone sold. Almost like a constant reminder, because let’s be honest everyone is glued to their phones now and miss out on a lot of social interaction which might be one of the detrimental effects on mental health at present. If you were to have that in your phone always, subconsciously you would know you always have someone to talk to. It might not work but you never know unless you try and it’s worth taking any preventative steps in order to save lives. People that close to suicide might not even be thinking of their phone as they’re so fixated on the here and now and the overwhelming finality of their actions.
Maybe someone should create an app, called Buddy. Almost like a self therapy app. Day in day out, people always ask ‘you alright?’ we go ‘yeah’. Buddy should ask ‘how’s your mental state today?’ as no one ever asks. People with mental issues sometimes will neglect to speak to others in fear of judgement or being labelled crazy. Just knowing that it’s an app, you could almost take the peer pressure out of the situation. Talking to a computer is easier, surely? No social stigma or judgement. It could be programmed much like Siri, but only to give positive answers or links to information for the end user. The next generation are entrenched in the digital world and to get through to them we have to engage on their level. That’s not forgetting older people like myself who thinks the phone number would be enough.
Any feedback on this piece before I write my letters, is welcome.