Can Do Heath & Care - Thinking Differently Together August 2021

2. A person with Lived Experience Michael became unwell following family bereavement, triggered by his sister’s passing. A few days after this he went back to school, buried his head and continued on. Things caught up with him; he became unwell having lost a lot of hope and used maladaptive coping strategies that were detrimental to his physical and mental state and was under mental health services. Things did get that bad that he lost all hope, the days were dark – he was ‘in a tunnel’ with no light, no end. Everything was hard, everything was repetitive and there was no purpose, no reason to carry on. He was seeing nurses and support workers, involved in groups and doing what he could. They did hold hope for him and did encourage him, unfortunately he did one day take a substantial overdose. It wasn’t any easy way out – it was a hard choice; it took a long time to get to that stage. The level of relief he felt within himself once he’d made that decision and was comfortable with it meant that on that day his presentation changed – it was a good day. He’d seen his nurse that day and was as well as he had ever been to anyone externally, but he had made that choice and decision and followed it through. He felt at ease, at comfort, and remembers the feeling before he did pass out and lose consciousness that the pain was over, it had ended as far as he was concerned. On the level of what he took and the manner in which he did it he ‘shouldn’t’ have still been here. He sent one message, to one friend, saying ‘thank you’ and off the back of that he got his door kicked in; and that just proves and shows that curiosity, questions, asking if someone is ok and then listening - if they say yes but you know that is not the case, ask again, can make a difference. Have the conversation. From that; the hope; the opportunity; the inspiration; the support he did and has received, he is now over 20 years on and now a mental health nurse. He is here because of his past, because of the journey he has taken and now tries to and does inspire hope to the point that his 15,000-word dissertation was on male suicide and mental health. From that he came up with themes that the subject is under researched when it comes to primary papers – it was difficult to find 8 papers that he could use, forcing him to broaden to a global search. What he found was that the themes were all the same: masculine norms and ideals; how men are brought up – ‘men don’t cry’ they just get on, and don’t really talk feelings and emotions – like they didn’t happen, and like for Michael, who didn’t really talk and just ‘got on with it’. He reflected on the need for professional curiosity and asking questions to offer that chance - giving people hope. Suicide is preventable; we can as friends, as family members, as colleagues or nurses or whatever we are we can all make a positive impact. So, if someone says they’re ok, just ask again, be curious and have that conversation. It can change someone’s world, as it changed his. Michael Jenkins NSFT Marie’s Story – How listening and a non-judgemental attitude can make a real difference Marie’s story comes from her personal perspective as a carer and from losing friends by suicide. Suicide is everybody’s business – you don’t have to be mentally unwell to have thoughts of suicide, and their presence doesn’t automatically mean you are mentally ill. Marie told us how when she felt that low, she needed someone to just listen. Her feelings have often come from a place of feeling trapped, and without hope, and all options including suicide are perceived as helpful. She didn’t want anyone to restrict her choices without discussion about what she feels is helpful but when she has asked for help, she really has needed it. The best responses she has had are those that put listening at the core, don’t incite panic and reserve all judgement. Active listening is inherently validating; language is a choice – suicide may be a decision but when all factors are laid out, those who die by suicide are not on a level playing field at the time due to life experiences. It is never helpful to remind someone, whatever their intention, that suicide is a person’s choice. This sentiment does not display compassion. Being alone with a mountain of distressing thoughts and images can be so loud. For Marie, sharing them, externalising the struggle, and then with the right person at the right time, trying to problem solve has been a coping method she has developed over the years. When someone opens up about having thoughts or feelings of ending their life it is important to realise, they may have no idea what could help and have given up caring to an extent. Here, time and active listening is so useful because in talking out feelings that may have been shut away, sometimes that in itself is a pressure release. Marie has used listening services herself as a release valve, because debriefing about a stressful event has helped prevent crises. Thinking Differently Together | 2

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