Seven stories of hope - Rick's story
Published on 01 November 2019
Please be aware the story below may contain reference to suicide. Should you feel this might cause any discomfort, please do not read further.
As a part of Mental Health Week, the Launceston Suicide Prevention Trial presents the personal stories of seven people and their experience, in a series titled Seven Stories of Hope.
Mental health issues and suicide are a concern across all Australian communities, but are often subjects which aren't openly discussed. Seven brave people from the Northern Tasmanian community are sharing their unique stories to break the silence and offer what they value the most: hope.
By sharing their stories, they hope to help someone who is going through a tough time, or help someone who may have lost a loved one. They hope that others can feel empowered to talk about life's difficulties without fear. They hope that people realize all is not lost and support is available -- sometimes in the most unexpected places.
By sharing their story, we hope that you can take something away that will bring a new and unique perspective on an issue that requires all of us to play a role.
This story is by Rick.
It is a very uncomfortable feeling to have a deep urge to speak – a desire to be honest and express the emotional pain you feel - but having your voice suppressed by something powerful that you cannot define.
Something invisible. Something internal.
Maybe it is a fear of judgement, the power of stigma, or just plain uncertainty of how to verbalise that pain.
Whatever it was that stopped me from being honest and expressing my voice, I learned to work past it – to reach out.
There are still loved ones that I have yet to have an honest conversation with. I will in time. But my voice was heard.
I have been in a place of recovery, from depression and suicidal thoughts, for a long time.
I have a twin brother who struggled with suicidal thoughts; thoughts that he acted upon more than once when we were younger men. The most uncomfortable feelings that I associate with those times are the feelings of regret and disappointment that I didn't let my brother know just how much I identified with his pain. I had experienced thoughts of suicide myself, and secretly acted upon them also.
But that invisible force silenced my voice, as much as it was fighting to be heard, and I never told anybody about my experience. Not even my struggling brother.
I remember, after one of my brother’s suicide attempts, my father and I were sitting by his hospital bed in the Emergency Room. My brother and I were about 20 years old. I watched as my father, a man who loved his kids but who was not the most sentimental in the normal light of day, reassured my brother.
Dad let my brother know that he was going to be okay, that he had people who cared about him, and that nobody was judging him for his actions. I sat there, expressing the same ideas but feeling completely hypocritical.
I wanted to tell my brother that I had been where he was – that I had experienced thoughts of suicide before and acted upon them.
But… I… just… couldn’t.
Several years earlier, when I was 16, I engaged in an unplanned attempt at suicide. In fact, I would do so again a couple of years after my brother’s stay in hospital. This is something that I could have shared with my family. Something that I could have shared with my twin. Maybe he would have felt less alone, less different. But whatever it was that fed my silence, and the depression that I experienced in my late teens and early twenties, it kept my voice excruciatingly suppressed.
When I was in my mid-twenties, after what I now accept as several years of alcohol misuse and unhealthy silence, I worked past the invisible, internal force that was stopping me from reaching out. It began when I accessed a psychologist through my GP.
From the very first conversation, despite my nervousness and reluctance, she made me feel understood. She let me know that I could speak about my experience of suicidal thoughts and that feelings of depression can be managed. She allowed me to express my voice.
Over the years that followed, I had ups and downs, accessing mental health professionals when needed. Setting health goals, career goals, and personal goals certainly helped. I learned strategies for managing the unhelpful thoughts.
When I finally met the lovely lady who would become my wife, I found a heavenly source of support with whom I could share everything. But if it hadn’t been for that invisible force – fear, stigma, uncertainty – I would have realised years ago that I already had people in my life who would have listened.
It was only after years of hard work that I reached a long-term place of recovery and embarked on a career in mental health support. It is because I remained committed to my mental health, having taken the time to become adept at management strategies, that I found myself in a place to help others. My lived experience is something that I can securely reflect upon, but it has its place.
I am satisfied that the voice inside of me was given the power to express itself. If I have anything to say to others who experience thoughts of suicide, it is this: find somebody, anybody, to speak to – a family member, a friend, a mental health professional, a crisis line. Anybody. Don’t stop until you find the right person for you. Because that voice inside of you wants to be heard, and there are people who will understand.
Keep working past the fear, stigma, embarrassment or indefinable force stopping you from connecting with somebody. It is worth the effort.
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For support please contact,
Lifeline 13 11 14 lifeline.org.au
Suicide Call-Back Service 1300 659 467 suicidecallbackservice.org.au
For emergency or immediate risk, please call emergency services on 000.