Suicide is(nt) Painless….
The poignancy of the lyrics to the opening theme tune to one of my favourite TV shows, MASH, is something I never thought I would realise personally but when you get to that moment, suicide is painless.
In the UK we have just had Mental Health Awareness week and the US has Mental Health Awareness month. The reality is, mental health awareness should be all year round. The World Health Organisation (WHO) say that 1 in 4 people will suffer from some form of mental illness through their lifetime.
Mental Health by the very nature of the wording seems to generate a stigma and is something people are reluctant to talk about. Those self-same people are happy enough to explain how bad their cold is or the last time they had food poisoning or the time they were in a hospital for an operation. Why should mental health be any different?
That stigma is killing people, in the past few days we have seen the death of Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef, Kate Spade the fashion designer, it seems that ever 2 or 3 days there is another post on social media paying tribute to a veteran who has committed suicide yet the government with combat stress stated that the rate of suicides among UK veterans is comparable to that of civilian statistics.
There are 2 issues with that, the first is that veteran suicides are not recorded in the UK. Until this year it was only Scotland that had a policy where GPs asked their patients if there were veterans, the MoD doesn’t gather any statistics. The second is with the military population being very small compared to the population of the UK and given flawed data collection, it is easy to provide statistical analysis that says what you want, and the Government doesn’t want to admit to a problem
I decided, when I got a call from Maxine Mawhinney to appear on her new YouTube Show “The Moment” and she asked me to choose a moment in my life, that that moment had to be the one that nearly killed me. One that led to me suffering horribly for almost 20% of my life. One that changed my life dramatically but one I have recovered from and can use to improve awareness.
I am not afraid to speak out and say I suffered from a mental health illness, I feel no stigma attached to it, I am me and I have been successfully treated and I have normal Philip back. I urge you to watch my moment:
On the back of that I was asked to do a piece for BBC Northern Ireland with Vinny Hurrell on the very popular Stephen Nolan Show. Baring my soul to my home country but also to a place where people will just judge me negatively because of my old profession. I say to those people, I can look back on my military career and see the lives I have helped save. The smiles on the faces of the children in a little destroyed village in Kosovo when they gathered around my Land Rover – the cheeky children throwing snowballs at our vehicles in Sarajevo and playing football in the street when all around them was destruction, but the shelling and sniping had stopped. Please listen to my interview here:
And then to the Sunday People who took my story and published it on the day after the Royal wedding. Given the help the ‘young royals’ are giving to mental health awareness I felt honoured to be in that edition. Please read my story here:
Mental illness is something you don’t know you have until it is often too late. Those around you may see it and certainly get hurt by it. People shy away because they don’t know what to do and are afraid of being tainted by it. Some people rebel and see your weakness and for unexplained reasons want to try and hurt you further.
Not everyone gets PTSD, not everyone’s mental illness is PTSD, as a phrase, it is thrown around a little too liberally and is used by some as a marketing ploy to get charity money or as a badge of honour by misguided individuals, which it most firmly isn’t. It takes a long assessment process to be properly diagnosed. I do not feel fortunate for having suffered but I do feel fortunate to have survived.
For those I have hurt, I am sorry, for those who have hurt me, I forgive you, for my friends who broke off contact, I have missed you, for those who had responsibility for me and saw my suffering but did nothing, I forgive you but beg you take action if you see someone else suffering, for those who have stood by me and picked me up when I have fallen, I salute you, for those who still try to hurt me, please stop.
The time has come to recognise that there are illnesses where you will never get a ‘get well soon’ card. The time has come to recognise those casualties of war who have died because of their service but at their own hand. The time has come for our remembrance services in November each year to have a moment of reflection for those who are not here because they have made the ultimate sacrifice to get rid of their demons.
For anyone who is suffering in silence, watch, listen, read my story and talk to someone. You can get normal you back.