I’m about to get very real and talk unashamedly about suicide. But first, it’s really important to me that anyone who reads this understands that I am in a much better place now and I am only talking about it today because I believe that it needs to be talked about. A good friend of mine recently shared an incredibly harrowing report by NZ Herald that told us our youth suicide rates are the worst in the world (I will link that report below for those in a strong enough place to read it). I grew up being told that simply mentioning the word suicide would increase our risk to it tenfold, but I believe this crisis is far beyond that now, and sweeping it under the rug clearly isn’t working. So, below is my very raw account of my brush with suicide and if you feel that reading on will do your heart more damage than good, then please stop here. I have thought a lot about this and am only choosing to share this now because I know I am a survivor, stronger than ever before and I hope that by being honest about how shit it can get I can encourage those in worse places to keep fighting because it gets better, it really does.
Getting help from the mental health system in New Zealand has such a small window of opportunity. You may have heard the old “it’s the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” phrase, but if you ask me it isn’t even that. It’s the tree half way down the cliff that if you’re lucky you’ll manage to grab onto. Best case scenario it might stop you from falling any further. Then with some more external help and a truckload of internal strength you can pull yourself back up, but there is very little waiting at the top of the cliff to stop you falling right back off again. And well, if you miss the tree then you’re screwed. If you’re in a bad enough state to be a hazard to yourself or others as you hit rock bottom, the only people who will deal with you are the police. Or if you’re lucky, an incredible support network of family and friends who have to climb down the cliff with no training and risk their own mental well-being coming to get you, because no one else will.
Unfortunately, I hit rock bottom on a Saturday night, when there is only a skeleton team of mental health staff around until business hours resume on a Monday. So I found myself sat wet and naked on my parents bathroom floor after a botched attempt at washing off the hardships of the day, trying as hard as I could to quiet the suicidal thoughts that seemed to be drowning me, but I really wasn’t doing very well. My Mum was on the other side of the locked door on the phone to the crisis team as I sat there screaming and smashing my head into the bathtub in an effort to stop myself grabbing something sharp and doing something even worse. The crisis team informed my poor, panicked Mum that if she couldn’t cope it would be the police, not an ambulance that would be sent, and yes they would take me to the hospital but probably in handcuffs. Her only other alternative would be to take me to emergency herself, but it would be around a 6 hour wait before anyone would be available to see me. If I had known this at the time, in the state I was in, I would’ve thought that was me done, there was no way I could keep fighting my mind for that long. Thankfully this wasn’t my Mum’s first time faced with this scenario, and she knew from past experience that bringing the police into an already horrific situation really only made the horrors that much worse. So she took matters into her own hands, got into the bathroom and physically held my out of control body back from causing any more damage. I am quite sure if I wasn’t fortunate enough to have her there with me that night, I wouldn’t have gotten through it. The rest of the weekend is a painful blur to look back on. Thanks to my family being incredible and refusing to leave my side, me being the relatively tiny and physically unimposing female that I am, and a decent handful of sleeping pills (carefully administered by my Mum under instruction from the crisis team), we all survived till Monday.
I am so lucky I have a family that love me beyond anything else. And I am so incredibly grateful that they were there for me when I needed them, because I don’t want to die, and even then I didn’t want to die – I just wanted it all to stop. I needed out, and dying seemed like the only way to do this. What I know now though, and what I truly hope anyone who experiences this kind of sick knows, is that is just not true. The beauty of life is that everything is temporary, and this includes pain, panic, heartache, grief, self-hate, guilt, emptiness, or any overwhelming emotion that screams for you to end it all. It will pass and that is the only real way to end it – to get through it, to let it pass.
But I know that when you are that kind of sick, no amount of advice and philosophy can stop the pain and silence those voices. And really, that’s not what saved me either. For all the good my logic and self-reasoning has done for me in the past, I was so beyond that on that Saturday night. It was the unconditional love from my family that meant even when I was screaming at them to leave me they wouldn’t. I made it so hard for them, it would’ve been so easy for my Mum to leave the room after I cursed at her to let go of me over and over, but she wouldn’t.
Love and compassion saved me, and while I pushed that to the limits for my Mum and my family, it is something that we all have to offer. When your mind is sick you can be very hard to love and so often the people that need it most end up the most isolated from it. And if you ask me, that right there is the killer – isolation.
I cannot stress enough how very real and close to us all suicide really is. Yes, our mental health system needs improving, but I’m not writing here to complain about that. Because the people working in the system are doing the best they can, they are run off their feet and their resources are spread so thin it’s a wonder they haven’t crashed to the bottom of the cliff themselves. Instead I’m writing here today to say, let’s help them out. Let’s stop saying it’s not our problem. Because it really really is. We need to start tackling mental health issues at the top of the cliff instead of at the bottom (or on some dodgy tree), and really, that starts with support and love and compassion from you and me and all of us.
If you’re worried about someone, the best thing you can do is to be there for them. If you can’t do that at the very least don’t leave them isolated. If you yourself are fighting a losing battle with your mind and heart, do the strongest and bravest thing you can and reach out for help. Remember, you are loved, you are wanted, and you are needed. It is likely impossible for you to see this right now but it is a temporary fog and it will pass. If you reach out to someone, anyone, and have the courage to be honest you will realize that you are not alone in this. Below are some important links and numbers of places you can reach out to for that support, love and compassion if you cannot find it anywhere else - you are never alone.
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Wide variety of NZ helplines including specific support for senior’s, or children and everyone in between. Victims of rape, domestic violence sufferers, those struggling with addiction, or their sexuality or gender identity will all find help a phone call away here. There are even support lines for concerned family and friends.
Practical information to make reaching out that bit less daunting and confusing. Definitely recommend checking them out if you think you may have been putting off getting help for fear of the unknown. Anxiety, depression, and addiction helpline’s are listed too.
Multiple options for immediate 24/7 help for NZ young people. You can text, call, or even email. The website itself is pretty great and worth a good look around too, there are even forum’s where you can chat to others going through similar stuff.
Numbers to call or text (retrieved from the NZ herald post linked below).
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
Stay strong, and stick together xx