In the UK and ROI in 2013 there were 6,708 suicides. According to Samaritans; since 2007, the start of the recession, the rates of suicide have risen to their highest for over 30 years. In 2012, the largest killer of men aged between 20-49 was themselves. That’s right, suicide kills more middle-aged men than anything else. It should be a huge national issue. But, for some reason, it doesn’t seem to be given much attention.Currently, there are a number of huge campaigns aimed at educating men about their physical health. Prostate and testicular cancer are two of the largest, and while they are noble causes, the sad fact is that young and middle aged men are at greater risk from themselves. According to the charity CALM, in 2014 more than 40% of men in the UK considered suicide. And while the majority of these men will not take their own lives, 12 men a day do.
But why have I started my first article about depression talking about suicide? I presume everyone who has depression has a moment when they know they need some serious help. For me, it was when I planned my own suicide. I knew the where, the how and even what I was going to write in my own suicide note.I was probably less than an hour from killing myself. This for me was the moment I realised I had depression. This was a split in a road, quite literally. Either I would walk into the multi-story car park where I would jump. Or I could run to a friend’s house and try to fight through it.
Since the start of this semester of university, I’ve felt weak. Little things get me down so much. For a long time I would cry at least once a day. Any moment where I’m alone, I feel awful. I’ll sit in the library just to be around people. And when I walk home at the end of the day I feel an urge to go anywhere but my own room. When I go to sleep I question the meaning of life and sometimes I wake up already feeling sad— sad that I haven’t passed away in my sleep. My days have become structured around how not to feel awful. Not about how to have fun. Just how to not end every day wanting to end it all.
I knew this level of upset wasn’t normal. I told myself I was weak, that I needed to get a grip. I had many friends so I wasn’t alone. But I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. A dark, dark hole of me that opened up and swallowed me. One negative thought and I can feel myself fall into the pit, my darkest thoughts spiralling out of control till I feel worthless. When you feel that way, every damn day, why fight it? I’ve been fighting this for years and I was sick of it. I didn’t feel like I was going to win.
But despite this I’ve managed to keep going. I’ve always had self-confidence issues, but I put up a wall to hide them. Outwardly I seem confident. I take part in sports teams and societies. Making friends and girlfriends isn’t an issue. But at least that was how it seemed to everyone else. But deep down I feel so lonely; I feel unwanted. No relationship works out. When I’m around friends I feel good, I feel alive. But the moment I’m alone I feel dead; as if my body shuts down all the emotions I have till I can only feel sadness.
I’d been having counselling for weeks but it wasn’t helping. I was seriously considering anti-depressants. But one Sunday night, I bumped into an ex. She told me that she regretted the relationship we’d had. One for never being able to let go, this hit me hard. I’ve had break ups before and had this conversation a few times. But for some reason this time, this moment, it broke me.
This was it: The fork in the road. Would I jump or run?
I ran to a friend’s house. I cried on her floor. She knew exactly what to say to stop me jumping. The next day I went to the doctors first thing in the morning and started a prescription for anti-depressants.
Can other students relate to my experiences? In short, yes! If you listen to ‘Mental Health Matters’ on Leeds Student Radio,you will quickly realise that depression is a large yet under discussed issue for students. The ONS has reported that between 2007 and 2011, the amount of students taking their own lives has risen by 50%. A 2011 report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, looking into student mental health found; “Most higher education institutions have sophisticated pastoral and counselling services in place, however, in many universities the provision of services has not kept pace with expanding student numbers – leaving existing services overstretched”.
The vast majority of students don’t have depression. The majority of those who do, don’t kill themselves. But it is an issue that society cannot avoid. I was lucky enough to have a friend who themselves suffered from depression. She knew exactly the right thing to say and do at the right time, and that stopped me. Some people are not as lucky as I was.