Shining a light on suicide
Writing a letter to her doctor was Rebecca’s first major step in addressing and communicating her mental health issues.
The master’s student, who had come very close to attempting to take her own life, has since built a network of people around her who have grown to understand her struggles with depression.
Rebecca, currently studying sport and mental health, also runs TEAMReb which seeks to raise awareness of mental health through discussion and partnerships.
“I am shining a light on suicide for the people who didn’t have the opportunity to have a second chance at life like I have,” said Rebecca.
“As a teenager I’d struggled with depression for some time and I didn’t know how to communicate what was happening to me and how I was feeling.
“This demonstrates the power of the written word. For me, writing things down was the first step. If it makes it easier for others to ask for help by writing it down, rather than having to say it out loud then I would encourage them to do so.”
Around her studies Rebecca works to give mental health a voice, and to spread the understanding and undo the stigma that surrounds the illness.
To the point where TEAMReb has started workshops and conversations in schools, colleges, organisations and sport clubs across the region.
“ DURING LOW MOMENTS I ALWAYS SAY TO MYSELF THAT IT IS JUST TEMPORARY AND IT’S NOT GOING TO LAST FOREVER.”
“By encouraging these conversations at an early age, I hope to build a solid foundation with which to maintain positive mental health,” she said.
“Because like many others I left it until crisis point before thinking I needed help.
“I’ve learnt that isn’t the way to do it. Talking can help prevent families, friends, colleagues and others from going through the devastation that suicide brings.
“I feel that I was fortunate enough to have support and to get help and obviously there’s people that haven’t felt that way, so they are the people that I am shinning the light for.”
She added: “You’re not on your own. Unfortunately, as people we do end up having these feelings and thoughts but it’s ok to feel like that. It can get to a point where you don’t want to carry on, but we need to also make it known that change happens all the time and it’s not permanent.
“Things get better and I’m a great believer in that.”
Rebecca says that her friends and close network have learnt how to talk to her.
“At times I won’t pick up calls and I won’t respond to messages from friends. And they will leave me voice messages saying ‘hope you’re having a good day’.
“That reassurance from people around you means so much as they take the time to understand and keep in contact, both when I’m feeling low and feeling well.
“My friend is going through depression right now. I know that my friend won’t answer my calls or texts sometimes but as a friend, and because I understand depression, I persevere with contact and do get through. That’s very important too.”
“During low moments I always say to myself that it is just temporary and it’s not going to last forever.
“Sometimes, to believe it, you need to hear it from other people, people like me, that have gone through it.
“We need to share these messages because when you are in that dark place you don’t believe it, and you can’t see it, but help is available.
“People worry that they’ve tried this and they’ve tried that but you need to persevere with recovery.
“It is something you have to work on every day until you get to a point where you are feeling better for a few days. Those few days turn into a few weeks – things do get better.”
“Being aware of changes in a person’s behaviour is very important for friends, family or any kind of support network.
“Sometimes I just say ‘I’m not feeling great today’. Saying something so simple starts a conversation and more often than not results in you feeling better.”
Rebecca is also fully aware how important sport and physical activity is to her general wellbeing.
“On bad days even just going for a walk clears my mind as you are in the moment and outside rather than thinking about too much at once. It doesn’t solve everything, but it just gives you that little boost.”
She added: “I’d certainly say that normalising talking about mental health and suicide is very important.
“There are so many people in the world that have similar thoughts to what you are having.
“Sadly, people can feel ashamed to speak up and discuss the feelings they are experiencing. But hopefully the more we talk about it the more people aren’t going be ashamed to admit it and talk about it.”
“My mental health has been so up and down that I have put off getting a full time job. But I feel like I’m ready to take some risks and see what I can do.”
The ‘Shining A Light On Suicide’ campaign has been commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership to take the sensitive subject of suicide out of the dark and encourage everyone to talk about it in an honest, open and direct way, so no one sees suicide as a solution to their problems.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 49, women aged between 20 and 34 and is the leading cause of death in people aged 15 to 29.
Statistics show that many men in particular who have died by suicide did not ask for help or speak to someone before they took their life.
The #shiningalightonsuicide campaign will encourage people to talk about suicide in an honest and open way so no one feels it is a solution to their problems.
After being discharged from the military Owen suffered from social isolation and suicidal thoughts.
At the age of 30 England rugby league player Danny Sculthorpe signed a four-year deal with Super League team Bradford Bulls.
“I really believe that the more we have conversations about the more we find the right language. I can remember a time we didn’t talk about cancer and people didn’t go for help.”
Michael has battled depression and suicidal thoughts all of his adult life.
“I’m under 50, I’m male, I’m gay, I have type 1 diabetes and I was previously bullied in the workplace,” says Dennis, a survivor of multiple suicide attempts.
“Suicide isn’t the solution to any problem.” That’s the view of Doctor Falmai, from Bury, who has previously had suicidal thoughts.
“I remember waking up feeling lucky to survive.” Caroline, 32 from Wigan, is a survivor of suicide.