[Background: BBC R4 Woman’s hour gave 5 prominent women the chance to discuss topics that interested or moved them. The resulting programmes were so powerful that Muggins Here is joining in and lining up real ideas for an imaginary #WHtakeover. Comment and join in – what are the topics that matter to you? NB: Woman’s hour is not just for women, in 2013 44% of its 3.9 million listeners were male, but it remains a space to discuss overlooked issues such as the increase in unpaid carers or including sanitary products as a vital part of international aid. *All text links are articles, TED talks and sources NOT ads or spam.]
First up, the Internet. As Bill Gates said, ‘the Internet changes everything’ but just as it has changed the way we live, we have changed how we use it. It is no longer simply a resource but also a tool. The potenital to empower and improve lives has been shown to have a particularly positive effect on those with low income or education, those in the developing world and women in general. It gives us all autonomy, security, access to community and a voice. However, it is not perfect; navigating the hackers, stalkers and trolls (who aim to cause hurt and distress by making extreme comments anonymously) can be difficult. It seems the Internet has the power to bring out the best and worst of human nature.
While we talk about the new generation of ‘Digital Natives’ and the Queen’s speech talks of the right for broadband in every household in Britain, there are still those without Internet access or the necessary computing skills to get online. Several organisations are looking to address this imbalance and introduce people to the advantages of internet use.
Today there are over one hundred thousand tweets about World Suicide Prevention Day. This is FANTASTIC! Unlike so many other issues, this really is one where you can help just by sharing a link or liking a post – because each click sends the message ‘its ok to talk about this’. Which it is. Always. (You could go even further and ask someone how they are really feeling – like the Australian ‘RUOK’ campaign that encourages people to answer the question ‘how are you?’ with a little more detail than the standard ‘fine’. If everybody you ask is ecstatically happy and goes on for hours about their life being all kittens and rainbows and comfortable shoes – forget nirvana, true happiness is comfy footwear – you’ve still been a good friend and they know that you are willing to listen should they need to talk)
The phrase ‘suicide prevention’ is so important. When we talk about suicide it is usually as something someone has already done or attempted. What we avoid mentioning is just how many people have been driven to wishing to end their own lives, whether or not they act on it. The only way to combat the stigma and the isolation of people suffering is to talk about suicidal feelings. There are so many role models for those overcoming physical illness, but far fewer for those struggling with mental health (because someone thinking rationally about killing themselves is not mentally healthy however compus mentus you may feel – but that is ok. There is help and support and a lot less judgement than people anticipate. One great aspect of today’s awareness campaign is helping to dispel some of the stigma around suicidal thoughts and mental health).
Once you start talking, this is a really tough topic to talk about, whether you are helping someone or looking for help yourself. Here are two brilliant organisations that offer support:
Mind has centres across the UK that you can phone or visit for support, advice and great information about mental health disorders . There are also lots of articles written by people with first hand experience – one of the toughest aspects of feeling suicidal is feeling isolated and alone but reading someone else’s experience of the same emotions, however different the circumstances, can really help dispel some of that ‘you against the world’ feeling.
Blurt is an absolute haven. The website is beautifully designed, it feels positive and calming, which is surprisingly important. The podcasts are on just the right topics, the articles are so well written (I defy anyone to read Charlotte’s story and claim she was being selfish, needy or overdramatic – words too often lurking in the background of our silence on suicide. It is frank and honest and straight from the heart), there are great initiatives to get involved with, a peer support group and you can even send someone (or yourself!) a care package. Suicidal thoughts often stem from it feeling too difficult to carry on, but Blurt helps make the whole business of living a bit more bearable.
This probably isn’t the most articulate thing I’ve ever written, but being able to talk about talking about suicide feels like one of the most important. I hope the buzz of today carries on long enough to make some changes to the way we approach such a difficult topic and each other.