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  • Writer's pictureMike Douglas

STOP Suicide Campaign

Back in January I was fortunate enough to record a podcast with Rob Earl. After having arranged our podcast discussion some weeks (maybe months) before, finally sitting down to talk to Rob was lovely. It was ace to hear more about his story.

Around this time Rob mentioned a campaign he was leading that involved talking about suicide and the importance of having open conversations. Something I very much believe in. I was delighted when Rob asked me if I would be interested in participating in the campaign.

By the end of January I was participating. It was great to be involved in the CPSL Mind led campaign STOP Suicide along with a few other very cool mental health advocates. Hearing their experiences and passion for change was emotional and very inspirational.

"STOP Suicide is a suicide prevention campaign that seeks to empower communities and individuals across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to help stop suicides by being alert to the warning signs, asking directly about suicide and helping those who are feeling suicidal to stay safe."

The campaign, while focusing in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, will be far further reaching. The campaign was particularly important and emotional for me because the night before meeting everyone for the first day of filming I was informed that one of my school friends had taken their own life. I have since found out that Dave was the 4th person in my year group at school to have taken their own life. I don’t know if that matches statistics, but it feels like a lot! It feels like 4 people too many, especially when I have had those thoughts myself on more than one occassion.

When I found out the news about Dave it made me feel like I couldn’t and didn’t want to talk about mental health and suicide. I felt emotional, I felt a lack of control, talking, even thinking about suicide felt painful and destructive. Its something I continue to struggle with.

After an hour or two I started to think ‘no, this is why I have to talk about it’. I know more people feel this way and are not talking about it. Hopefully, by doing this someone may rethink their plan, they may reach out, they may look for support, they may talk to someone. Maybe, hopefully.

My involvement in the STOP Suicide filming was to talk about some of my own experiences and thoughts and the isolation that I have felt. I spoke about: returning from Australia and the instant sadness I felt stepping off the plane, the financial and mental struggle while looking for work, having my wife decide she didn't love me anymore, thinking I was ok, maybe being ok, then the depression, suicidal thoughts, thoughts of self harm and the subsequent episodes, struggles, fits and rages.

I still struggle with these thoughts, but they are far less often and far less intrusive than before. I previously had hours with this being my only thought. Ive had many minutes thinking about how, and had different thoughts, ideas, plans and ways to attack myself. Thankfully these are things I struggle less with now, part of that progress has been talking. Talking to friends, professionals and talking openly online.

It was an interesting experience to talk in a relaxed but professional setting about my thoughts of self harm and suicide for the filming. It actually very much helped to ‘normalise’ the conversation in my mind. Everyone involved was amazing, so a big thank you to CPSL Mind, Jagex and particularly the Cambridge FilmWorks Team who put me at ease.

I was proud of myself for talking about this experience and knowing it could be used in a major campaign. I am also very pleased to have had the opportunity to spend time with the other people involved; Beth, Leah, Jodie, Dexter and Steve.

I was so looking forward to watching the end product with everyone else at the Campaign Video Launch Event this week.

It was great to see everyone there discussing mental health, suicide and why we need to talk about it more.

Seeing the video on the big screen was a bit emotional, Im just glad I had watched it a couple of times at home first. Otherwise their may have been a lot of tears.

I encourage you to visit the STOP Suicide website and sign the ‘I’d Ask’ pledge.

I was particularly affected by Jodie's story because she has become a close friend and someone I admire a lot! Knowing that a mental health illness could have prevented me ever knowing this wonderful human does actually break my heart. There are people we meet in our lives that can change it forever, I don't think you don't know if its a lot or a little at the time, but you know its happened. Jodie is one of those people to me.

The event was ace, seeing: Aly (CEO, CPSL Mind), Kevin (Director of Customer Service, Jagex), Jonny Benjamin (Mental Health Campaigner), Rob and Isabel (CPSL Mind, Campaigns Team), Leah (Mental Health Campaigner), Fiona (Mental Health Commissioner, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough) and Steve Mullen (Mental Health Campaigner), all talk about their experiences and why STOP Suicide was/ is so important to them was really good to hear.

I have to add I was moved by Steve's words and his family's story. It was very interesting to hear someone I've not met before talk openly to an audience about how their "privileged life" had not stopped depression and suicide affecting their family. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to talk with Steve after the event to say thank you for sharing his experience. But I am. It means a lot to have people talk openly about their experiences. I was particularly struck by Steve's comments on; if 0 suicides are not currently a target, what is an acceptable number? It was a powerful message.

I have felt mentally excused since the event. I am so pleased with the film and how most people have received it.

It makes me sad, upset and disappointed that someone didn't know or help Dave. Maybe he felt like he couldn't reach out and talk about his struggles, or that he shouldn't, or that he wasn't worthy. I will never know.

I hope that if someone is in a similar situation, and they see this video, they reach out. That could be to family, a friend, a colleague, a local Mind charity, Samaritans, anyone. Please, please, talk to someone.

Please know you are loved, you are worthy of care.

If you know, or have seen something that makes you worry/ think someone you know maybe struggling you can ask about mental health, depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, self harm, suicide and anything in-between. Make time for that person, ask them out for coffee, juice, football, boardgames, a walk, photos, a makeover, dinner, whatever.

The news and media tells us there has been an increase in reported self harm among our young people particularly girls and suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. Isn't it time we all took mental health wellbeing and illnesses seriously?!

"Children and adolescents who harmed themselves were approximately nine times more likely to die unnaturally during follow-up, with especially noticeable increases in risks of suicide" - University of Manchester and Keele University

"Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK" - Calm

Suicide is 100% preventable, I'd Ask.

Massive thank you to Rob for inviting me to be part of this awesome campaign, to everyone at CPSL Mind, STOP Suicide, Jagex, Cambridge Film Works and my fellow Campaigners.

**Group black and white photo by Dexter Morgan Photography**

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