individual caring for someone in suicidal crisis

A mother’s fight against stigma

My story begins with a broken family one that divided 3 little boys.

In the beginning the struggles were clear, a mother struggling to raise 2 of her 3 children while fighting to regain custody of her 3 child. The years took their toll on all us. I watched my sons grow into men as they began their own broken families.

The domino effect is real in many aspects of life.

One broken little boy grew into a broken man…with an unrelenting need to be loved. As his mum I was determined to love him no matter what, to show him the support he had missed growing up with.

As parents we don’t see the damage we inflict on our children once the family breaks down, years of spite and revenge, years of making a child miss out on the love of a mother.

A fight for survival began early, a fight or flight life that turned our world on its head. A life filled with questions, heartbreak and sorrow.

I could never explain the whys just comfort the why nots. The joys we celebrated together like the birth of his own 3 children, I held him through the break down of his own family break down. We became our rocks secretly as we had done his whole life. The determination of others to keep us apart only made our bond stronger. As he tried to move on he once said to me “ I’ll be lucky to make it to 30 mum “ my answer was “ prove them wrong my boy I know you can”

He moved so far away yet we called each other 3-4 times a week. 

He reached 30 and came to visit, the excitement of a holiday was overwhelming.

We spent a week together and his leaving words I will never forget “I love you mum and am so proud of you” as he kissed me on the forehead I whispered “I love you too and am always proud of you, we got this” 

Two weeks later on a Thursday night call we chatted for hours, Friday night I worked late and decided not to call and disturb him and his friends how I regret not making that call.

Saturday afternoon the 11/11/2017 after my phone had been ringing all morning I finally answered with anger in my voice as I saw my sons name appear ,” I’m at work boo you know I don’t finish for another hour I’ll call you then , just wait!”

A voice spoke back to me ……” you can’t, his ….. then the phone went silent as I tried to comprehend what was said. Within minutes his father called me, “ you right ?” I asked is it true? “ yes it’s true” again the phone went silent along with my world.

Desperate I called the police where my son was living and that call was the most important day of my life, the words “ next of kin” tore my world apart. My son had taken his life and there was nothing I could do. 

My son was broken, my son was gone nothing was going to take that pain away. I desperately want to say a final goodbye, I wanted to hold him one last time yet now I wasn’t his next of kin his father was. The broken family revenge had struck its final blow. I was isolated once more from my child, not knowing where he was, not knowing how he died and worst of all not being allowed to know.

When will we as parents stop destroying our children, pushing them to the brink.

It’s strange , I should have been angry he left no note, he left me. The usual stigma began that he was selfish for leaving his children. My life had stopped that day for a moment until I spoke and my words softened “ my boy is not selfish, and I am not ashamed, my heart is broken , his is now free. You are the ones that are selfish and blind and the stigma attached is a prison.”

I am proud of my son he did indeed make it past 30.

For months I fought with those around to make them understand my response was I’m in denial and the silence came. Until I was asked by a friend to attend roses in the ocean. I could talk to others about my son, I could speak his name.

His name is Ross and from that day I gave him a voice and his selfless act gave me the power to help others.

Ross didn’t know his actions would cause so much pain what he did know was our actions caused him pain. We all stand and speak on mental illness yet we don’t act. Our sons are told to man up, my son tried and to me I’m proud.

Suicide is all our responsibility, suicide prevention is in actions not words.

I am a mother not next of kin. I am my son’s voice and his heartbreak.

Suicide took my son and gave me the strength to save others.

The Power of a Shared Experience

As we conclude another capacity-building workshop, I find myself reflecting on what it means to have a shared experience? Why do we feel so much more comfortable and safe among others who have lived through a similar experience?

Whilst time on our own is healthy and enjoyable, it can at times be indescribably difficult. Nevertheless there is a place and time for personal reflection and being comfortable with your own company during the grief process.   Just as important though, and significantly easier in many instances, is to spend time with others who have a shared experience.  Organisational psychologists refer to this as social capital.

Social capital is fundamentally the benefit that a person gets from engagement in a particular social environment.  Generally the membership of that group has a common interest, a purpose and a bond or solidarity around elective belief, ideology or dogma.

Robert Putman talks of two ways of looking at social capital.  The first of these is what is known as bonding.   Putman says, “the shared social norms and cooperative spirit from bonding provide social safety nets to individual and groups to protect themselves from external invasion.”  This is particularly relevant when we look at a lived experience of suicide.  Most people who experience suicide in their lives also experience the “invasion” of beliefs, judgements, behaviours caused by a lack of understanding and knowledge about the experience.

Social capital essentially poses the question, “What do I get out of being involved in this group that I can’t find anywhere else?” When people with a lived experience of suicide come together there is a special connection.  A connection that occurs with the deep understanding and empathy, compassion and honesty, and sense of belonging that comes with a group that they don’t have to justify themselves to or be anything different. No airs and graces have to be put on.  No masks have to be worn.

Through the Suicide Prevention Lived Experience Speakers Bureau, we have the privilege of sitting with, and walking alongside people with a lived experience of suicide as we explore and learn how to share our story.  I say privilege because to be invited into another person’s world, their most personal space, into their memories, some fond and some painful, is indeed a privilege.  When people experience significant trauma in their lives something else happens. A new perspective of what is really, truly important is uncovered. Their is an authenticity that burns brightly and strong bonds are forged quickly.