Day 881

The school project entailed each student discussing what they would put in Room 101 and why. Room 101 is where the bad things go.

For Saagar, it was translucent curtains. He thought they were pointless. They didn’t keep the sun out. They didn’t hold any warmth in. They blew in the wind. They annoyingly got in the way. Close up they were see-through. They twitched in the hands of old ladies. Their flimsy paperiness didn’t have a pleasant texture. They collected dust. They looked like nothing much. As far as he was concerned, they didn’t serve any purpose They definitely belonged in Room 101.

When I look back to my younger days, I can see me making similar arguments. At that time things fell into distinct boxes – good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, royalty and commoner, black and white – concepts inspired by fairy tales, cartoons and films, Cinderella and Snow White to name a couple.

As the years went by, I learnt that a lot of life happens in grey zones, many rights and wrongs are based on a given context, some things can be beautiful and ugly at the same time, royalty can be common and the good and the bad resides in all of us.

Maybe his young mind told him there were only two available choices – life or death. Maybe if he was a bit older he would have known that there are other choices, one of them being, waiting it out.

“Nothing worked but the passage of time … It’s an illness and it ran its course. I had always described myself as melancholy or depressive but I hadn’t a clue. Anything I had before was a blue day by comparison. This was altered perceptions, a mental illness.” Says the Irish novelist, Marian Keyes, 53, about her severe depression in 2009. Writing was her “rope across the abyss”. She started with short stories and her 13th novel is soon to be released.

 “Have patience with all things but first of all with yourself.”
-Saint Francis de Sales.

Ref:

Room 101 : http://www.definitions.net/definition/ROOM%20101

Novelist Marian Keyes reveals fight against constant ‘suicidal impulses’ : https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/12/novelist-marian-keyes-reveals-fight-against-constant-suicidal-impulses

Day 878

Gary’s story.
The Last Word.
Work Under Pressure.

These 3 powerful videos appear on the website of Mates in Mind (MiM). Suicide kills far more construction workers than work place accidents.  MiM is a charitable programme to improve and promote positive mental health in construction. It has been co-founded by Health in Construction and British Safety Council.

At present, one in 6 workers in the UK is experiencing depression, anxiety or stress. 6% of the UK work force is made up of construction workers, that is 2.1 million people. Hence at any given time at least 350,000 people in the industry will be dealing with mental ill health and possibly feeling alone. Raising awareness and generating champions through modular training in that community means there will always be someone close by who can help or are dealing with similar feelings.

A recent article in the BMJ states 5 facts about the conditions in anaesthetic training –

Workload – Nearly all had stayed beyond their shift. Nearly two thirds (62%) said that in the previous month they had gone through a shift without a meal, and 75% had done a shift without drinking enough water.

Health – Sixty four per cent of the anaesthetics trainees thought that their job had negatively affected their physical health, and 61% thought it had negatively affected their mental health.

Morale – Poor work-life balance, the burden of assessment, career uncertainty, frequent rotations, and terms and conditions of service sapped their morale.

Patient safety – This had worsened due to lack of available hospital beds, staff morale, and staff shortages.

Burnout risk – 85% of these young doctors were at risk of burnout.

I think Mr Hunt can take credit for some of these issues.

Mate in Mind is a fantastic example for other industries to make a concerted effort to address the well being of their employees in these difficult and uncertain times.

Ref:
https://www.matesinmind.org/employers.html

http://careers.bmj.com/careers/advice/Five_facts_about_conditions_in_anaesthetics_training

Day 873

It’s Thursday.
It’s the 16th.
It’s March 2017.
Exactly 29 months.
2 years and 5 months.

I am in the same part of the same hospital, doing the same job with the same people as I was on that day. I am taking a break in the same clutterred coffee room where Saagar visited me a few months prior to his death.

Today, I sit here reading the House of Commons Select Committee Progress Report on Suicide Prevention. It informs the Government’s strategy on the same.

In a nutshell, it clearly states – Suicide is preventable. Current rates of loss of life in this way are unacceptable and most likely under-reported. Even though 95% of Local Councils have a Suicide Prevention Strategy, its implementation is very poor. We must have a way to reach those at risk but not in contact with health services. It commends the work of the voluntary sector. It identifies stigma as a big hindrance. It emphasises better targeted training for frontline staff, medical students and GPs. It expresses disappointments at the poor follow-up of patients after discharge from psychiatric services, at poor information sharing with families and poor funding/staffing of services.

It identifies self harm as the single biggest indicator of suicide risk. Poor psychosocial assessment and safety planning of these patients possibly contributes to a high rate of suicides. Proper support for bereaved families should be an integral part of suicide prevention. Irresponsible media reporting is damaging. Coroner’s need to call a suicide, a suicide.

All the things that we have been saying for all these months!
To think that at least 15,000 more suicides have already taken place in the UK since Saagar’s death!

Report:
https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/news-parliament-20151/suicide-prevention-report-published-16-171/

Day 871

“I have opened a door that can never be shut. How will I ever get her to trust me again?”

19 out of 20 people who attempt to end their lives will fail.

These survivors will be at a 37% higher risk of suicide.

Anger, shame, guilt, fear, minimization and avoidance are few of the reactions they evoke.

The taboo associated with the act might make them feel even more isolated. Their families may not know how and where to access support for themselves and their loved one. The ones closest to them may feel drained, stressed, exhausted and let down. The trust between the two might be deeply damaged.

Their relationship might reach an all time low, just when it needs to be solid.

Both need to take responsibility for their own well-being and  that of each other.

Here are a few useful resources.

Ref:

Supporting someone after a suicide attempt:
https://www.suicideline.org.au/media/1114/supporting_someone_after_a_suicide_attempt.pdf

Advice for those who survived:
http://blog.ted.com/real-advice-for-those-whove-attempted-suicide/

TED:

Day 862

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He often watched ‘How it’s made’ on TV. He was fascinated with the process. Be it guitars, dream cars, ballistic missiles or bubble gum, he was intrigued with how things were made. In school he studied Design and Technology (D&T). As a project he had to design and make something in his last year at school.

Together we came up with the idea of a jewellery stand. We discussed the desired features, materials, shape and size and over time he refined the idea with the help of his teachers. A few months later he brought home this beautiful piece of work. He had managed to add a mirror, adjustable fittings and decorations to it. I was immensely proud. Another one of his many gifts! May be his finger prints are still on it, intermingled with mine. 

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(Saagar, slightly blurred, in the background in his school D&T lab)

Two hundred and thirty one children in the UK died of suicide before finishing school in 2015. Nearly 100 children aged 10 to 14 killed themselves in the UK in the last decade, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The more I look into it, the more my heart breaks. I am sorry if my writing has the same effect on you. It is such a waste! We are loosing our future to suicide!

 “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”   – Nelson Mandela

Ref:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/04/female-suicide-rate-in-england-highest-for-a-decade-in-2014-figures-reveal

Day 851

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“The university did not ring and tell us that she had been admitted to hospital critically ill. We were in the dark for hours as to what had happened. We found out off Facebook” says Nikki, mother of Miranda.

Miranda Williams 19. Student of Philosophy.
Daniel Green 18. Student of Law.
Kim Long 18. Student of Law.
-Deaths by suicide, first term of first year at the same University.

Lara Nosiru 23. Student of Neurosciences.
-Died by suicide, Final year at the same University.

All these lovely young people died within a few months of each other. On the surface of it the deaths do not seem to be related to each other.

At least 1600 families face this nightmare every year and at least 1600 beautiful young lives are wasted year on year with no sign of a drop in numbers, only a rise.In 2007, there were 75 university students died of suicide in England and Wales. In the ghastly year of Saagar’s death, 2014, the number went up to 130, nearly 75% higher.

Why?

Underdiagnosed anxiety and depression at school.
Problems identified but not dealt with.
Stigma stopping young people from asking for help.
Unfamiliar surroundings.
Being away from home/family/friends for the first time.
Excessive drinking culture.
Trying their best to start off Uni on the right foot.
Debt / financial pressures.
Academic pressures.
Suddenly being treated like ‘adults’.
Trying to cope with pressures all alone.
Too proud, worried or ashamed to ask for help.
Not enough help available at Uni.
(“During Kim Long’s inquest this week, it was revealed that more than 600 Bristol University students were referred to support services by their tutors last year because they were deemed at “high risk”.)
Improper use of ‘Confidentiality’.
New students not being identified as high-risk.
Poor understanding and management of depression in the community

1600!!!

Ref: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2838174/is-a-cocktail-of-ballooning-costs-stigmatisation-of-mental-health-problems-and-academic-pressure-killing-our-kids/

Day 829

Loneliness – a disturbing word, often invoking a sense of sadness and despair.

It’s not one thing. It is subjective. Imprecise.
It can be found anywhere.

When after many requests you still don’t have a sibling.
When you are born with skin colour darker or lighter than it should be.
When you are the new girl in class.
When you don’t get picked for the team.
When you sit alone at lunch time.
When you are not sure what you want and settle for what is available.
When you are stuck in a loop of cold-hearted bureaucracy.
When you are different.
When you are told ‘you should be happy’ by the one you are married to.
When you work from home and see no humans for many days.
When you feel you have to be somebody else to be successful and accepted.
When you are unable to have children.
When you have an abortion or a miscarriage.
When you have children and don’t see anyone but them all day everyday.
When your family is no longer a family.
When you have a fracture and are stuck in bed for weeks or months.
When ‘Facebook’ and ‘Instagram’  constantly offer comparisons.
When you get fired.

When you have just retired.
When a loved one suddenly disappears.
When you are blamed for a mistake you did not make.
When you get mugged.
When you are diagnosed with a serious illness.
When you are old and so easily forgotten.

Solitary confinement is one of the most severe forms of punishment because it can break your spirit. In 1951 researchers at McGill University paid a group of male graduate students to stay in small chambers equipped with only a bed for an experiment on sensory deprivation. They could leave to use the bathroom, but that’s all.  They wore goggles and earphones to limit their sense of sight and hearing, and gloves to limit their sense of touch. The plan was to observe students for six weeks, but not one lasted more than seven days. Nearly every student lost the ability “to think clearly about anything for any length of time,” while several others began to suffer hallucinations. “One man could see nothing but dogs.” A study at Harvard found that roughly a third of many solitary inmates they interviewed were “actively psychotic and/or acutely suicidal.”

In the biggest literature review into the subject of loneliness, the University of York looked at 23 studies involving 181,000 people for up to 21 years. They found that lonely people are around 30 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke or heart disease, two of the leading causes of death in Britain. More than 1 in 5 people in the UK privately admit they are ‘always or often lonely’. It is a public health problem.

I welcome the ‘Commission on Loneliness’ launched in memory of the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, to look for practical solutions to reduce loneliness in the UK. Let’s do our bit, however small.
RIP Jo.

“Fools,” said I, “You do not know –
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Take my arms that I might reach you.
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence…
-Sound of Silence by ‘Simon and Garfunkel’

Ref:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/31/mps-launch-jo-coxs-commission-loneliness/
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/04/19/loneliness-is-public-health-problem-which-raises-risk-of-stroke/