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Twenty four years ago suicide ended the life of my lawyer husband. Bereavement by suicide is inconceivable until it happens to you; very often one of the consequences is contemplating suicide yourself when the agony of loss feels unbearable.
No-one, no matter their status, success in life or affluence is immune to the possibility of suicide. The law can be an exceptionally stressful profession and if there are other factors, perhaps of longstanding, an individual’s mental health can be at substantial risk.
A year ago I sat in Gloucester Cathedral at a service to mark World Suicide Prevention Day 2017, which I had been invited to help to arrange, as both the leader of a suicide bereavement support group and as a member of the county Suicide Prevention Forum. It was a truly memorable occasion that stimulated much emotion, both tears of sorrow and smiles of joyful memory in a congregation that included some who had travelled a distance. During the first part of the service; which celebrated the lives of those who had died; the poem The Existence of Love by Marjorie Pizer was read:
I had thought that your death
was a waste and a destruction,
a pain of grief hardly to be endured.
I am only beginning to learn
that your life was a gift and a growing
and a living left with me.
The desperation of death destroyed the existence of love
but the fact of death
cannot destroy what has been given.
I am learning to look at your life again,
instead of your death and dying.
The last two lines are the crux of coping with the tragedy of suicide. In the early days it is almost impossible to think of the person other than through the manner of their death, but in time and with support from those who offer an understanding that comes from similar experience, there comes a day when there is a memory of a good time, laughter shared or a special occasion, which is revisited without being overshadowed by the unbearable pain of loss.
The essence of this is human contact and that is also important in the prevention of a tragedy, noticing that someone looks in need of a friendly word and the offer of a listening ear.
Signs to look out for in yourself or others
These are not exhaustive and some people will show no significant signs.
If you have thought of suicide
How to have a conversation with someone you believe to be suicidal
It is not the case that asking about suicide precipitates the action of suicide. Rather it shows the person you genuinely care, are interested in their welfare and want to help. Use simple, direct questions in a non-judgmental, non-confrontational way.
There is help available and from sources that do not result in an entry on health records – a risk that will put many off seeking it from statutory health providers.
Samaritans – for everyone Call 116 123 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day Visit the webchat page
Papyrus – for people under 35 Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm Text 07786 209697 Email email@example.com
Maytree Respite Centre A sanctuary for the suicidal 0207 263 7070 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide Call 0300 111 5065
Suicide Bereaved Network Call 0300 999 0003
Suicide Crisis (Cheltenham) Call 07975 974455 Email: email@example.com
LawCare counselling factsheet
LawCare bereavement factsheet
LawCare worried about someone factsheet
Malignant Sadness (The anatomy of depression) by Lewis Wolpert (Faber & Faber)
Call LawCare’s free, independent, confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888 for immediate support or visit www.lawcare.org.uk
by Trish Thomas, LawCare peer supporter
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