Tag Archives: suicide in the media

Goodbye Time To Change

The mental health campaign Time To Change is closing at the end of March 2021. I’ve been involved with them at different times so this is my goodbye to them.

For those that don’t know, Time To Change is a mental health campaign started in the UK ten years ago. It’s a social movement, meaning it’s work is based on using those with lived experience to talk to others to raise awareness of mental health and mental illness. They have done this in many different ways, from holding events to helping people share their stories with those in power. It has also expanded globally in the last few years.

My first experience with Time To Change was asking them to look at a portrayal in a programme that made people with mental illness seem like attention seekers. They then asked me to write a blog post about this for them. It was one of the first pieces of writing about mental illness I had done. They gave me confidence to start my own blog up, sharing my experiences and thoughts.

In 2015 they sent emails out about a new event, Story Camp, that those with an interest in sharing their experiences about mental illness could sign up to, to learn about how to do it effectively. This included bloggers and media volunteers. I applied and never thought I’d be chosen to take part, but I was. So on 10th September 2015, I headed to London to take part in workshops and listen to others speak. The people I met were amazing. One is now one of my closest friends. Others inspire me greatly. I was too nervous to say hello to my biggest inspiration, Jonny Benjamin, but he was there talking to us all and I snuck a photo. I was in awe.

I carried on writing my blog and using their tips to improve. I signed up as an official Time To Change champion and this led to me becoming part of the local hub being set up in my home town. I did some training again with them, though becoming ill again meant I didn’t take part as much as I’d of liked.

So Time To Change has been at many different parts of me sharing my experiences. And for that I’m grateful. The training offered is high quality and the people I’ve met through them are amazing. I’ll miss having the opportunities they’ve offered and actually feeling valued by an organisation. They’ve validated me and many others.

While we are saying goodbye to Time To Change, we are not saying goodbye to the work they’ve done. It’s definitely made mental health less of a taboo. We still have much work to do with making people understand other mental illnesses as well as they seem to of accepted depression and anxiety. This will continue with those it has trained up and given confidence to.

So thank you Time To Change, and goodbye.

Found my notes from Story Camp 2015

Suicide Talk

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care.

When I feel suicidal I know that my answers to questions and what I say in general change. How I act may also seem to differ from “normal”. Here I thought I’d discuss some of my tells and some I have learnt about from others. Being aware of when someone is feeling suicidal means we have a better chance of helping them before we lose them. Everyone is different but hopefully this may help us identify the signs and give us the courage to ask these people “are you feeling suicidal?” and get them the help and support they require.

1. I’m fine/I’m tired

A huge thing is that when I’m doing really bad I say I’m doing good. Or I say I’m tired. It’s a sign my mood is rapidly dropping. I might not be at the suicidal zone yet but I’m heading that way most of the time. There are other phrases I’ve heard other people use that are signs they’re struggling which have included “not too bad”, “plodding along” or “up and down”. Obviously people use this when they aren’t heading into the suicidal area but it’s worth being alert.

2. Withdrawing

This is a huge tell of mine. In my head I’m thinking that I’m helping people get used to me not being around and showing them they don’t need me in their lives. I convince myself it’s for the best. It takes a lot to drag me back from this without me making an attpt although that has become less frequent in the last couple of years.

3. Suicide memes/quotes

I may start to spend a lot of time on Tumblr looking at the suicide hashtag. It’s normally something I will do without others being aware so not always a sign but occasionally I will share one or two of these.

4. Googling methods

Again this is something I may do on the quiet so not always obvious but I may admit it to others. It may be that other people don’t hide it as much and it is a sign to look out for.

5. Being really happy after being really low

Sometimes I will go to the total opposite. I will desperately try to hide behind humour. I will try and be really bright and help everyone and not answer when they ask how I am. I become really generous and do lots.

6. I don’t answer how I am

Yep I hid one in above. Did you notice it? See how easy it is to miss? Sometimes the signs are so hard to see. I dont always see them. I’ve had a friend make an attempt later the same evening I’ve been talking to them and never twigged how awful they were feeling. It brings its own guilt but it is not your fault.

There are other signs I have written about before but I thought these would give an insight into the less well known. And ones I’ve experienced. For others please look at my other blog post here.

If you have anything to add feel free to use the comments or you can find me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you are feeling suicidal you can contact the Samaritans in the UK or go to the page called crisis lines in the menu for help in other counntries.

An Open Letter To Instagram

Dear Instagram

I have recently been made aware that you are hiding the recent posts with mental health hashtags. I feel this is totally unacceptable on many levels.

I understand that you have done this in the name of safety, but in actual fact you are making things a lot less safe for those with these conditions. Social media by its nature is made to connect people and by eliminating these hashtags you are removing people’s ability to connect with others who have the same condition or who are going through the same thing. This creates a feeling that people are alone in their struggles and can’t see how other people deal with the condition. This could lead to more feelings of suicide and self harm as they try to cope alone.

Another issue I have with you removing these hashtags is that you are eliminating the chance of people sharing positivity among the mental health community. Many people who use these hashtags share uplifting quotes, ways they cope and general support and awareness. By stopping this you are leaving people with the negativity of the illnesses they endure.

Furthermore on researching this I found that it was still possible to use hashtags for physical illnesses. This shows blatant stigma towards those of us with a mental illness. Yes, mental illness sees people who have a symptom of suicidal ideation, but this can also be caused by people experiencing a physical illness. Mental health is important and equal to physical health.

If you want a truly safe community then your aim should be to moderate posts better rather than a blanket bam on mental health hashtags. Yes there may be individual posts that are damaging to those in a vulnerable state but your aim should be to target these posts and leave the useful and positive posts attached to the hashtag. This could help those who are unwell.

I hope you take this on board. You can contact me via the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Why I don’t blame social media

There has been a lot in the news about how social media has a negative effect on mental health and it has even been blamed for the suicide of a 14 year old girl (check out the story here). However I personally don’t feel that social media is being given a fair trial and is not to blame, at least not solely.

There are many other things that have helped cause the increase in mental illnesses among young people. These are things that seem to have been overlooked in place of blaming social media outright. Social media feels like a lazy excuse for the ever-growing problem of mental illness among young people.

One major reason for the increase in suicide rates among teenagers (for statistics look here) is that they are unable to access the mental health care they desperately need. Waiting times have increased for therapy, if teenagers even get as far as being referred for it in the first place. There seems to have been a shift in what children will be accepted for treatment by CAMHs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health services) meaning that many slip through the net. Why is this the case? Put simply it is a lack of funding for mental health services as a whole.

Having a lack of CAMHs services also means that children and young people are having to get worse before they are considered for care. This means they’re in a worst place to start with when early intervention could stop them reaching crisis point. This could shorten the length of time they need support or lower the intensity of the support they require as well as preventing serious self harm and suicide.

Another reason for the rise in the number of suicides among young people, in my opinion, is the school system and the constant criticism that it brings. Everyone says that things are easier for young people these days and that the education system is too easy. For someone going through the system and hearing this makes you feel like a failure especially if you are struggling. This isn’t helped by the pressure from teachers. This isn’t the fault of the teachers. They themselves are under huge pressure to get results and meet targets, so obviously the pressure gets passed on to the students.

I’m not saying here that social media has no part in the rising tide of suicides among young people. Obviously with cyber bullying there is not the escape from bullies that you would get in previous generations. It is constant. But blaming the images of self harm and suicide quotes on Instagram I feel is taking the blame too far. There must be something wrong before they see the images to make them go looking for these images. Also these images are available on the Internet via a Google search not just social media.

Social media also has some positive effects on mental health. There is a very supportive community on the different social media platforms. There is also advice and information about different mental illnesses available via social media. Also it can help those struggling feel less alone and can encourage them to talk and get help.

I know my views may be controversial but I felt I needed to share them and I would love to hear your thoughts either in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Language Matters

The language we use surrounding mental health and mental illness matters a lot. It can fuel stigma if used incorrectly. It can make people think differently about the subject being talked about. It can minimise the seriousness of this topic. So below I thought I’d discuss some of the common terms that get misused or that create stigma.

1. “Committed suicide”

The term “committed suicide” comes from when suicide was against the law. This is no longer the case and hasn’t been for several decades. Using this term can make it sound like someone is criminal for taking their own life, instead it is better to use the term “died by suicide”.

2. “You’re so OCD” and other OCD misuses.

This is so wrong. It minimises the suffering of people who have to deal with this complex illness. Using OCD as a way to discuss how neat and tidy you are is undermining the seriousness of the intrusive thoughts that people who suffer with OCD get if they don’t carry out their compulsions. So before using OCD as an adjective remember how serious it really is.

3. “Psycho”

The term “psycho” brings up all sorts of awful thoughts and images, but using it to describe someone who has a mental illness doesn’t help with the stigma surrounding mental illness. It makes people wary of people with a mental illness and makes them think they are going to be attacked or hurt by us. The truth is that people with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence than the perpetrator.

4. “Doing this would be an act of self harm”

This is a phrase I have heard used by many MPs and I dislike it intently. It feels like they are dismissing the distress someone has to be in for them to hurt themselves. It is used as a cheap point scoring exercise. The seriousness of self harm is being overlooked.

So that is just a few of the terms that I feel people need to think mre carefully about using. If you can think of anymore feel free to share using the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Reacting to Suicide in the Media

Please be trigger aware when reading this piece.

I’m writing this piece after hearing about the suicide of Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park. I’ve seen a lot of different reports and posts about his death and have felt really affected by it all so thought I would discuss how I feel and some things to consider when dealing with this kind of news.

My first emotion on reading about Chester’s death by suicide was absolute shock and disbelief. I couldn’t take it in. He was such an icon and part of my life through his music. And seeing the out pouring of love for him made me feel sad that he couldn’t see it in himself. It also made me think about my own attempts on my life and if I’d been successful. It also triggered me slightly.

The next thing that bothered me was the way some of the reports were written and some of the language that was being used. Before I go on I must point out that both Time to Change and the Samaritans offer guidelines to reporting suicide. These I found really interesting to read. Especially as some reporters quite obviously haven’t read these. A major thing that needs to be pointed out was the number of people still using the term ‘commit’ suicide instead of died by suicide. This is important as the term commit suicide relates to when suicide was still a crime. This hasn’t been the case for many years yet the term is still seen consistently. This needs to change and can only be done by holding people to account of their reporting style and language.

Another thing that bothered me was the reporting of the method of suicide. I found this particularly triggering and I don’t think I am alone in this. A guideline I would like to see added would be for trigger warnings to be added to these posts to help people like myself. Or for methods not to be mentioned at all.

The last thing I want to tackle is the people who have called Chester selfish. I know for people who have not been there it is hard to understand but suicide is one of the least selfish acts. Each person has their own reasons but I am sure they have considered others before acting. They may have spent days going over everything. Considering everyone. Please don’t judge. You have no idea of the pain.

So those are a few of my reactions to suicide in the media including social media. I hope it can help people understand and change the way they portray suicide in the media and on their social media. What are your thoughts?