I can’t comment on the death of Ellie Soutter specifically – I don’t know her and there is always so much more to a person’s illness and death than is reported in the news. Teenage suicide and mental health are very complex issues.
Reading about suicide in general makes me sad. The fact that someone has reached a point where they felt so hopeless that they saw no other way to end whatever was going on for them than to end their life is upsetting.
I don’t like the term ‘putting on a brave face’ for people not talking about depression because I think that asking for help is incredibly brave.
But I don’t think that means that those who don’t ask for help are not brave. Anyone who has to live with a mental illness, but continues to get up every day – for however long they are able to, is brave in my opinion.
I think I was aware that things weren’t quite right a while before I ever had a name for it but I became aware of the term depression from my mid-teens. I began to talk to someone perhaps a year or so after I first realised that things were less than okay, though things weren’t okay a while before I properly noticed it.
When I first started speaking to people, it was largely around the physical symptoms I was feeling as a result of my poor mental health, such as frequent headaches as a result of not sleeping.
I also felt suicidal for a while before I ever had a name for it and the first professionals I ever spoke to were the school nurses, followed by the school counsellor briefly and then I was referred to CAMHS for a number of years before becoming an adult.
Since then I’ve had help from a variety of sources. I can’t remember which of them I told I was suicidal. In general, with people, we’ve spoken about my mental health, how my life’s going, and different things we could work on. It helped because it gave me an outlet, and they helped to give me skills to cope with the difficult things I was feeling.
The best advice I can give anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts is to tell someone
My mum died nearly three years ago and I miss her every day.
Grief is complicated and there was a lot going on in my life as well as, and as a result of, my mum dying. It’s hard to identify which things cause which results. Grief and depression are separate things though they can result in similar feelings. They can feed into one another, but it’s sometimes hard to work out what is a natural reaction – like grief – and what is a mental illness.
I think there is greater awareness about mental health issues in some of the population but I’m unsure about how far-reaching it is. I think it also depends on the illness – some illnesses seem to have greater awareness than others. There’s a lot more information available, in lots of different forms, for those who want to find out more about mental health issues, or want to know how to access help and support for themselves, or how to support others.
I don’t know if depression will always be with me
I’ve had times when I’ve been so low that I’ve struggled to talk. However, they weren’t the most distressing times of my life, because I was actually too low to feel hugely distressed. There have been times when I have had to deal with intense suicidal thoughts but I’ve been lucky, on the whole, to have some amazing people supporting me through these times.
The best advice I can give anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts is to tell someone.
Even if you don’t feel able to talk about exactly what’s going on, just tell someone.
If telling someone that we’re feeling suicidal feels too daunting, we could just tell them we’re struggling, or that we’d like them to come over and chill with us.
When we feel up to it, it can be helpful to reach out for professional help or to ask a family member or friend to help us get the help we need. Whatever we’re going through, we don’t have to face it alone. There is always someone who can help us.
Over time, we can learn how to cope with these thoughts. We can learn how to manage and tolerate our distress. We can learn how to express our emotions to those around us, to accept help, and to be kind to ourselves.
I don’t know if depression will always be with me. But whether it is or not, it doesn’t have to be a life sentence for me. I’ve learned ways to manage it. I have things I do each day to try and stay on top of it.
I’ve had therapy and learned skills to manage my illness. They don’t always work, but when one doesn’t work, I just have to work on trying another
I try to talk to people. I manage the things I do in a week, both work and socially, to give me enough time to wind-down – helping me to keep on top of my mental health.
I work on self-care and self-compassion every day, particularly when my mood is dipping. I write. I paint. I get fresh air each day.
At the moment, I take medication. It’s not right for everyone but it’s currently working for me. I’ve had therapy and learned skills to manage my illness. They don’t always work, but when one doesn’t work, I just have to work on trying another, or ride things out until they pass.
I have some absolutely incredible family and friends around me. They can be great to talk to, offer brilliant advice and be really wise. I’m lucky to have some very, very supportive workplaces with amazing employers and I also have a very supportive GP.
The best times are when my depression lifts a bit for a period of time, or when I’m able to manage it so I can spend quality time with my family and friends.
I’m learning to organise my life in ways that enable me to manage my mental health as well as possible, to try and prevent as many debilitating lows.
Times when I am able to work, and to enjoy the work that I can do. Times when I can get absorbed in creating things. Times when I can just live my life.
Blurt is dedicated to helping those affected by depression
Naomi Barrow was talking to Joan McFadden