Personal Holocaust

The impact of suicide bereavement and suicide issues.
To lose someone you love through suicide has been referred to as a personal holocaust, people torture themselves by asking, ‘Why?’  The sense of rejection can be crushing (How can he have loved me to do what he did?), as can the searing guilt (If only I’d done this or that?’), the replaying in the mind of countless scenarios of what might have been.   Those bereaved through suicide have a particularly hard path to tread, exacerbated by their own feelings of guilt and constant self-searching reflections, in trying to make sense of what appears to be a senseless act.   This coupled with society’s stigmatisation and lack of understanding creates further intense psycho/social problems for those left behind.

Over 30 years ago I was bereaved through my father’s suicide.   At that time, there was no support available to my sister and me other than what we gave to each other.   It was incredibly hard.   My sister became seriously depressed and though I went with her to see a psychiatrist, there was no referral to a counsellor.   Even thought I was only 19 years at the time, and knew nothing about mental health problems and distress, common sense told me that she needed someone to talk to.   It is a fact that people bereaved through suicide are more likely to have mental health problems and be at risk of suicide themselves.   Often, one of the main wishes of people who have been bereaved through suicide is how other people can be prevented from under-going this experience which is why I am actively involved in suicide prevention  locally and nationally.

In Britain today there is an average one suicide every 90 minutes.   Anxiety, stress and depression among young people have never been higher.   Suicide attempts by young people have risen by 170% since 1985 and suicide is now the biggest killer of young men.   The need to educate young people about mental health has never been greater.   The teaching of mental health problems and strategies to deal with them should surely be a top priority in the National Suicide Prevention Strategy and that of the national educational curriculum and this needs to be reflected in local strategies and policies throughout the country if we are to have some real impact on reducing suicide.   It would further help in this process to set up a local Forum concerned with suicide prevention/bereavement issues in all localities.

Mike Bush
Associate Lecturer in Mental Health Bradford University
Retired Mental Health Social Worker
Member of the Leeds Suicide Prevention Strategy
Member of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Suicide Bereavement Working Party
Member of the All Party Group suicide Prevention House of Commons
Member of the Samaritans National Advisory Group

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