'I am a survivor of suicide'

Charlotte Underwood with her father

Charlotte Underwood with her father

I am a survivor of suicide, in both the senses.

I have survived my own suicide attempt and survived my father’s suicide.

Ignoring mental illness and letting stigma control what support and treatment people are offered will only result in more fatalities, like my father’s. 

That’s why campaigns like The Samaritan’s Big Listen are so important, listening to someone can save a life.

Losing my dad to suicide opened my eyes to the modern world, how there is a huge stigma attached to mental illness and a huge lack of support.

It hurts me to know that we live in the 21st Century and yet some still pretend that depression, anxiety and other mental illness aren’t real.

I know first-hand how real they are.

I have been struggling with depression and mental illness my whole life, it’s almost as if it is genetic. I am not the only person in my family with it.

I have been told I am a hypochondriac and that my physical illnesses are in my head. I’m scared for the day that I do get seriously ill and avoid the doctor, knowing that I won’t be listened to.

Going through all of this myself is the reason why I completely understand my father’s suicide.

I have never been mad at him and I know that he was trying so hard. For 16 years he tried to get better but he didn’t get the help he needed.

He once told me that I was the only person that understood him, I was an 18 year old girl and that made me so sad. Something needs to change.

Mental illness is just as serious and life changing as any other chronic illness, it can affect your working life, relationships and generally your quality of life, something I know all too well.

By speaking up and talking about mental illness, it gives others in similar situations a support network, somewhere to go when they need someone to understand them, it can make a huge difference, which is why I wrote my book ‘After Suicide’.

I wanted people to be able to understand grief and have a friend who they could relate to, though I feel my book can be so helpful for people who want to understand suicide more.

If I can give someone advice, I would say be patient with yourself or a person with mental illness, stick around and be ready to hold them if they need it but respect their space and time they need alone.

If someone is suicidal I would recommend just sitting with them, be gentle and help them find the words, together you can work through the problems and hopefully save their life in doing so.

If someone is grieving it is so important to understand that each individual grieves differently in their own time, do not make them feel guilty for their actions and tell them that they should be over it by now, it is the worst thing you can ever do.

Someone who is grieving needs constant reassurance and support.

Losing someone you love is the worst feeling in the world but losing someone to suicide can also add confusion and hurt as for some it can be unexpected or sudden.  

Ask someone how they are today and be ready to listen, it can make a world of difference.