Preston has gained notoriety for being the suicide capital of England. As the city council mounts its own investigation into the high suicide rates Fiona Finch spoke to one man who almost became part of the statistics when he tried to take his own life earlier this year.
SUICIDE attempt survivor John believes that health professionals have not got the time to listen to those in deepest despair.
He says the system is under so much pressure medics cannot give the depth of care needed to understand what is leading an individual to contemplate suicide.
John (not his real name) sees it as an irony that it was his own bungled attempt at suicide which led to a placement in a mental health unit in Ormskirk which enabled him to gain new hope and confidence and begin to look to the future.
Asked could he have turned for help to anyone and would it have made a difference, John said: “It’s a difficult question because realistically everyone has their own lives, own priorities, own family, own jobs and everybody is very busy.
“I think if you start looking towards the mental health professionals possibly more could have been done.
“But those that I’ve been in contact with seem to be awfully busy. They’ve a lot of people to see and deadlines to be met, quotas to be filled and they are unable to devote the time to any one individual that would make a meaningful improvement to that person’s life.
“I think I needed time spent with me on a one to one individual basis so that any given person could reach a fuller understanding of exactly what I was going through.
“One of the biggest problems for me was that it was a very, very isolated life and I found it really quite difficult to involve myself in any kind of social activity.”
Life is also a struggle financially and he found the requirement of having to go to his GP to get a sick note to qualify for benefits very difficult and stopped going.
He recalled: ”Often I would be talking to a different doctor each time and having to describe my situation and how I’m feeling and it’s quite upsetting.”
Five days in Royal Preston Hospital after a failed overdose, a couple of days being assessed at Blackburn hospital and time in a mental health unit at Ormskirk proved a turning point.
With an irony that John is well aware of, he explains that the stay in the mental health unit was especially helpful: “Yes it helped.
It sounds crazy – I had the time of my life there. Absolutely superb, simply because we had a good degree of freedom and I was very much in an environment where I was mixing with other people, and other people with similar problems, which made it probably easier for me to interact with them and it allowed me to express the caring side of my nature because there were people there with worse problems than I had.
“It was the opportunity to give something to somebody else. It’s something that had been missing from my life for so long because I was so isolated and short of money. That’s one of the bad things about being short of money, you can’t really give people anything.”
John had given his mother a week’s notice of his intentions, handed dustbin bags of CDs and books to his younger brother and deposited possessions in wheelie bins along the road, leaving his clothes outside a charity shop.
He is broke, jobless, admits to an addictive personality and finds it hard to ask for help, but this middle-aged man is not broken in the way he was.
His initial reaction was, he said, to feel “quite annoyed and despondent” at his failure.
“In a period of about 48 hours that had been replaced by an acceptance that I was still alive and that possibly that there might be a future that was worth living...I found that suicide was a very difficult thing to do.”
He thinks he must have vomited much of the mixture of medications he had overdosed on before they could harm him.
“I’ve lost the majority of my friends and most of my family because of my addictive behaviours.
“I found myself in a very isolated position. Because of my depression I was unable to motivate myself to do a great deal to change it.
“I was aware of opportunities that were out there for some degree of social inclusion, but actually getting off my backside and making my way to those places at any given time was something I wasn’t really able to do.”
“There’s help available but my own mental health is one if the issues and I hate asking for help. It’s like an admittance of failure, an admission I’m unable to live a normal life without help. It’s almost like a vicious cycle.”
If you or someone you know feels suicidal help is available.
1.Preston Samaritans: 01772 822022 or freephone 116 123 The Preston branch is at 11 St Wilfrid Street.
2. PAPYRUS HOPELineUK offers advice on young suicide prevention - 0800 068 41 41 text 077 86 20 9697 or email email@example.com
3. Lancashire’s Wellbeing and Mental Health Helpline - 0800 915 4640
4.CRUSE Bereavement Care - 0808 808 1677 or www.cruse.org.uk.