This is a story about a life or death situation...
I have no memory of this day, one year ago, because I was unconscious in a coma on life support in the ITU critical care ward of a hospital. My prognosis was not good. I was having a lot of seizures. My kidneys had failed. I was in a bad way.
I've written extensively about the very many aspects surrounding my suicide attempt, so I shan't repeat myself. For anybody who hasn't read about it, the various bits and pieces are here:
- Surviving Suicide talks about what it was like to regain consciousness in intensive care after days in a coma.
- Suicide Attempt: One-Year Anniversary talks about my reflections on the final moments which tipped me over the edge, and how I came to be saved by my Twitter followers raising the alarm to the emergency services.
- The Closest I've Come to Suicide was written only hours before my actual suicide attempt, and gives a chilling insight into my fragile state of mind and shows that my life was balanced on a knife-edge
There's a lot more I've written under the #suicide hashtag, which collects together all my blog posts on the topic in reverse-chronological order. All in all I've written more than a million words on this blog, with a very great deal of it talking about the things which were driving my depression and suicidal thoughts, and detailing some of my plans, which included a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge.
In the 3 years that I've been writing every day about the challenges I've faced, which very nearly claimed my life, I've been on a secure psych ward twice, I've tried multiple antidepressants and mood stabilisers, seen many psychiatrists and received care in the community with crisis teams and home treatment teams. I'm very well appraised of the full gamut of mental health services which are available in the UK. I know exactly how people slip through the net and wind up dead through suicide.
One of the reasons I started writing was that I was inspired by a campaign called RUOK? which made me start thinking about technology solutions to allow us to easily check up on friends we're worried about. I developed a quick website and Twitter bot which would allow anybody to anonymously ping somebody who was at risk of suicide, and raise the alarm if they'd gone silent - like a heartbeat check. Through developing this idea, I decided that I myself needed some kind of heartbeat-like thing to alert concerned friends if I was in trouble. If I stop writing regularly, I have a huge amount of people who'd notice and talk to each other to check on my welfare. It was through my Twitter followers that the emergency services were brought to my door just in time to save my life, one year ago.
The irony of dying on #WorldSuicidePreventionDay was not lost on me. That I was saved is quite miraculous, but a testament to the ability of social media supporters to make a real and tangible positive difference in the lives of people suffering with depression and struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Only a couple of weeks ago I was feeling very low and I sent out a tweet which said I hated my life, and the response was so incredibly awesome and supportive that it completely changed my mood. I had been feeling very isolated, lonely and uncared for; unloved. The unexpected flood of messages I received at that low ebb was exactly what I needed.
It's important to note that I didn't phone any crisis services or friends when I attempted suicide. It's crucial to understand that many of those who successfully commit suicide aren't crying for help or otherwise seeking attention. I had every intention of dying, not being saved by anybody or talked out of it. This is why it's so important that we look out for each other, especially living in a day and age when we're highly connected online but increasingly isolated and lonely in our local communities.
If we're looking to prevent suicides, it's worth encouraging those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts to connect via social media, where hopefully there will be caring and supportive people to spot a suicide attempt and alert the emergency services, or otherwise intervene. One of my Twitter followers responded within seconds, sending me his telephone number and the telephone number of the Samaritans, but I thought it was too late as I'd already swallowed what should have been a fatal overdose. That rapid response saved my life.
We might become resigned to the idea that somebody intent on killing themselves is going to find a way, but I'm living proof that even a very well-planned pre-meditated suicide attempt, executed relatively flawlessly, can still be a salvageable situation if the alarm is raised quickly enough. When we're attuned to the suffering of people we care about, we can sometimes catch suicide attempts in the nick of time, and save lives - that's what happened to me, thanks to concerned followers around the world.
There is hope that we can prevent suicides.