Trigger warning: this article discusses suicide
In the third of our series on male suicide, we spoke to two women from South Leeds. One who’s partner took his life and a mother who’s son has suicidal thoughts.
“It was the end of his pain, but just the start of ours”
It was a normal day when Sue (not her real name) brought her children home from school. Her daughter went to the toilet and found her daddy’s dead body. That moment, seven years ago, unleashed a trauma that the family are still dealing with to this day.
In shock, Sue took her children to the home of a family member. They couldn’t use the bathroom on their own and still can’t.
When they were eventually rehoused Sue let the children choose the bedroom they were most comfortable with in terms of how near it was to the bathroom. But they still ended up all sleeping together in the living room downstairs.
Sue went into a spiral of drug and alcohol addiction, but eventually she pulled herself together enough to ask for help. She got support from Social Services and from Forward Leeds (the drug and alcohol service). Some of that was tough love – daily drug tests – but most importantly for her the family stayed together and are still together.
The schools were also very supportive, but the children are affected in various ways. One daughter regularly ‘sees’ a man’s figure in her peripheral vision, another has behavioural issues that have impacted her education.
Sue has learned to manage the trauma her family has suffered, but doesn’t think they’ll ever get over it.
“He has several plans and we make sure we know what they are”
I always presumed that suicidal feelings were an overwhelming moment that is acted on and that the idea of leaving occurred once over a short period.
As a parent whose son has these feelings and thoughts, I now know this is something that can stay for a long time.
I know people that have lost people close to them or have attempted to take their life and the immediate response from loved ones is ‘if I had just done this, or if I had just said that’ it would have been different.
The idea that suicide is an option to some people comes with a lot of shame, not just for those close, but those who hold that feeling. An advantage, if you can call it that, is my son is able to explain these thoughts and absolutely clarifies that it is no-one’s fault. As hard as life may have been, as many mistakes as I have made as a parent, that is not the reason he doesn’t want to be here.
“I have times where I experience feeling like I am just here existing, like I have no feelings, no enjoyment, no anger being numb and indifferent to everything. Existing isn’t living so I don’t see the point in being here. These feelings come around regularly.”
We have open conversations about it regularly, I will sometimes ask him how much he wants to die today and he will respond honestly. Some may presume if he hasn’t tried then he doesn’t really mean it, but he does, He has several plans of how to go and we make sure we know what they were.
If he feels certain things need removing (knives or pills say) we do that. He has a safety plan that he can use on his own to deescalate his thoughts and because we have an honesty policy we remove the shame of thinking these feelings need to be hidden.
“I have stayed because as low as I feel I don’t want to upset my family or hurt my siblings, being able to say honestly how I feel and not feel bad for saying so helps me overcome the feeling.”
We view feelings of suicide as a symptom of depression so we treat it like an illness. If he needs extra support some days he knows he can ask, if he wants peace likewise, this way we feel we can manage it and have done over the past few years.
We don’t judge his feelings, as hard as they are to hear, but we respect them and deal with them. Our own feelings don’t come into it when dealing his, he is who is most important and he shouldn’t have to try make us feel better, he has enough to cope with. So we deal with our feelings about it separately. We have hope that the longer we are able to manage it the less and less he will have these thoughts.
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.
Read A Silent Emergency
Read Preventing suicide looking at the statutory services’ response
Read A safe space for men to talk and listen we spoke to one of the facilitators at ANDYSMANCLUB
Read Pathways for positivity: The man behind the smile suicide prevention advice
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