Content warning: depression, suicide.
When I was contemplating suicide in second year, I didn’t think I was allowed to go to A&E for urgent help, so I didn’t. I didn’t think I felt bad enough to call a helpline, and convinced myself they would tell me off for wasting their time if I did. I cried and isolated myself because the world didn’t feel safe, I slept so I wouldn’t hurt myself, and I didn’t tell anyone how bad things had become. I thought it could be worse, that I was being too sensitive, that it was my fault I felt the way I did. I habitually called myself pathetic and worthless and weak, and I believed it all.
I didn’t know I could speak to my GP about my mental health. I booked an appointment to discuss the physical symptoms of depression, waiting for her to ask the right questions, then hugely downplaying the severity of my condition out of shame. I wish I had gone earlier and I wish I had been more honest.
You are allowed to ask for help when you are in crisis, and long before you reach that point. You’re not wasting anybody’s time or medical resources. You’re not being dramatic. Nobody will roll their eyes at you when you tell them how desperately you’ve been wishing to disappear. You’re unwell and medics can help you. How? You might be seen by the home treatment team, or have regular check-in phone calls with your doctor. The psychiatric liaison team might help you create a safety plan, they might decide a hospital admission is the safest option, or you might be referred for talking therapy. You might try some medication, or find a support group to attend.
If you’re thinking about suicide, and don’t know who to call, knowing a few simple details might help you decide: charity helplines will not communicate with your medical team, but calls to 111 and 999 will be documented in your medical records and communicated to your GP. You can answer yes or no questions if it makes it easier to share truthfully. Calls to your GP might prompt a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist; you can walk into an urgent care centre at any time as a place of safety and for immediate face-to-face support, or you can tell a friend or a mentor or the first person who comes to mind. You can tell them that you are scared.
It is scary. It can feel humiliating and uncomfortable to be so vulnerable. You might vomit in the bathroom when it feels like the serious words get stuck in your throat, like I did the first time I reached out to someone. And you have to say something despite all that. You have to say the scary words and you have to let people worry about you, no matter how much of a burden you think you’re being. Feeling like a burden and being supported is infinitely less awful than feeling suicidal and alone.
I still find it easier to speak about living with grief and trauma than about living with depression, and I think it’s because I subconsciously blame myself for the depression, rather than blaming circumstances and external factors. I still have relapses; recovery isn’t a linear process and it’s certainly not easy. But even when the intrusive thoughts and hopelessness creep in again, now I know where I can go for help, I know how to be candid with my therapist, my friends and family know how to support me, and most importantly I know I don’t need to feel ashamed about being unwell. Even if things don’t get completely better, they can get less bad, and you will find healthy ways to cope when simply surviving the next hour seems like too much. Time will keep moving forwards, and being open to support will make each passing hour a little easier. So this is me giving my second year self permission to ask for help, and just in case you need it, I’m passing that permission onto you too.