I bought these cards from a famous London bookshop that is a place I absolutely have to visit whenever I am in the area. Laurence has to be strict with me so that I don’t go overboard, or I would take the entire store home with me!
On one such trip, I discovered The School of Life, an innovative company with products dedicated to the development of emotional intelligence internationally.
The box contains 60 cards all asking a different question for individuals to be able to understand themselves better.
For most people, if you asked the question who are you? They can generally provide a response. However, it is really those around us that have a better understanding of who we really are . Sometimes we are just unaware of our own shortcomings and character traits and even if you think you know who you are it doesn’t mean that you will not learn more about yourself.
But for some, this question feels them full of dread and I have spent many hours trying to figure out who the real Sydney is. It is really difficult particularly if you are suffering from a mental health condition, such as Borderline Personality Disorder. So, this was the main reason I picked these up, maybe these could help in my quest for self-discovery.
So, I am going to pick a card at random each week and write about it. I need to remember that some of my response may change over time but hopefully, this will be a good starting point.
I am trying to write a book and it has become apparent that character development is extremely important (at least that is what I gather from all the books I have read) and I worry because I am oblivious about who I really am how am I meant to write convincing characters?!
So here is card 1 of 60:
If I was a kind of weather, I’d be snow (because I love snow and you can make things out of it!)
If I was a piece of furniture, I’d be a comfy overstuffed armchair (because there is nothing more relaxing than sitting in a chair with a good book)
If I was a make of car, I’d beI have absolutelyno idea! I guess something that no one would notice (because I don’t want to draw attention to myself) but then I asked Becky and she suggested I would be a yellow car! Not exactly inconspicuous but certainly shows my love of the yellow car game.
If I was a piece of music, I’d be something sad and melancholy played on strings (string music is a huge part of me and causes such joy, I absolutely love Zoe Keating)
If I was a kind of food, I’d be Spag bol (my comfort food which could be spiced up if needed)
If I was an animal, I’d be a cat (because I like my own space and only want affection on my terms!)
If I was a kind of font, I’d be Wingdings because who knows what that is actually saying!
On the back of the card, there is a brief description of the reason for that question.
“Because the self is nebulous and shapeless, we can sometimes best grasp key bits of our identities via metaphors and analogies. The animal one can be particularly revealing.”
I would love to see other people’s answers and if you have any insights into the answers I have given! Help me out by leaving a comment below. The more information I can collect the better!!!
Suicide is still considered a taboo subject to discuss, some people think that by not talking openly about it people are less likely to take their own life by suicide. However, there is little evidence to prove this and research has found that talking openly about suicide allows people who are vulnerable to feel heard and supported within their community [1, 2].
The statistics associated with suicide are particularly difficult to read, worldwide over 800,000 people die by suicide each year equating to 1 person every 40 seconds  and even though there has been a reduction of 3.6% seen in the UK between 2015 and 2016 with 5,965 recorded deaths due to suicide  there is still more that we as a society can do
Which, leads me to my question – how should we talk about suicide?
When I was at my lowest point all I wanted was for someone to ask me how I was, not in that polite kind of way, but how I was REALLY feeling. I wanted someone to hear me and I wanted someone to empathise with what I was going through. But no one did. Other than Laurence and Becky no one really saw the chaos that was me. They were scared of me, the volatility of my moods and trying to reduce my angry outbursts was their priority. So, having any kind of open conversation would not have worked out too well for anyone involved.
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So, therefore I think the question should be broken down even further:
How do you talk generally about suicide?
How do you talk to someone who you think might be having suicidal thoughts?
1. How do you talk generally about suicide?
Preconceived ideas about suicide
This is important because if you feel that people who attempt suicide or have died by suicide are weak, selfish, cowardly, attention seeking, and a whole host of other negative opinions then you need to look more into the research and the why’s. Myths surrounding suicide are rampant and are unfounded. In my opinion, if you feel this way don’t approach someone who is having suicidal thoughts – it is not fair on them. If you have these opinions, please put them aside to help the person who is suffering.
Suicide is not weakness and never will be. Try thinking about suicide and dying by suicide as a result of a person being in so much pain that they see no other way of dealing with life.
We as a community have the responsibility of supporting that person – and not putting them down. They are entitled to their thoughts, feelings and emotions and we should be guiding and encouraging them to seek help rather than adding to the situation they find themselves in
Be compassionate, be responsible and think about the language you are using about suicide.
For a general discussion, it may help you to find some kind of prompt that leads you into a discussion on suicide. Or you could just start talking about emotions and feelings – for me when I am talking generally about suicide I use my own past experiences but if you haven’t ever felt suicidal, then please don’t make it up you could do more harm than good. I personally would feel like you were mocking me making the situation worse.
The words that we use have power and certain words that are often used in association with suicide apply their own stigmas . So, when speaking about suicide please avoid the following words:
Failed attempt at suicide
Died by suicide
Ended his/her life
Took his/her life
Attempt to end his/her life
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Remember that we are all human and will more often than not make mistakes, if you do, apologise and use a different term, learn from the experience and move on. Your guilt and shame about using the wrong language will not help the situation.
Whatever the reason is for suicide or a suicide attempt don’t criticise it or make a judgment about it. For example, someone said to me recently something that made me start. Whilst talking about another person in crisis they said, “something as silly as £10,000 debt made a person feel suicidal.” At this point, I spoke up and suggested that the use of language suggested they were judging that person’s situation and if it had come to this point it probably wasn’t silly to them. We have no right to place our own judgments about another person’s emotions.
2. Approaching someone who may be feeling suicidal
People who are feeling suicidal may exhibit warning signs about their thoughts and you may notice that there is a change in their behaviour.
Rethink Mental Illness provides the following list :
becoming anxious, irritable or confrontational.
having mood swings.
sleeping too much or too little.
preferring not to be around other people.
having more problems with work or studies.
saying negative things about themselves.
There are some signs that suggest someone is more likely to try suicide. These include:
threatening to hurt or kill themselves,
talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, or
actively looking for ways to end their life, such as stockpiling medication.
But remember you know this person and may see changes in behaviour that are not on this list so trust your judgment.
Starting the conversation
Whilst researching for this post I came across this very helpful information page written by the Samaritans about starting difficult conversations and think that it is very useful. They suggest the following :
Find a good time and place
Ask gentle questions and listen with care
Use open questions e.g. when, where, what, how
Find out how someone is feeling
Check they know where to get help
Respect what they are telling you and don’t pressure them – all of us want to fix things, offer advice but it is better for them to make their own decision
Don’t panic if you say something wrong
Show you understand
Look after yourself – it is important to remember that when you approach someone about suicide it may bring up a range of emotions in yourself
Assessing the risk
There are several questions you can ask to assess the person’s risk of attempting suicide but remember that if someone doesn’t want to answer you or they do not tell you their real thoughts then it may be difficult to prevent the individual from taking their own life. Even trained clinicians including The Secret Psychiatrist have not been aware of a person’s intention and she is a highly trained psychiatrist.
Questions you could ask to assess the risk [8, 9, 10, 11, 12]
Have you made a suicide plan? How specific is the plan? Do you know how and when you will attempt suicide? (PLAN)
Do you have what you need to carry out your plan? (do they have access to pills, insecticide, firearms…)? (MEANS)
Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
Do you intend to attempt suicide (INTENT) e.g. Have they carried out any acts in anticipation of death (e.g. putting their affairs in order).
Have you been using drugs or alcohol? (can increase impulsivity)
Is there anyone available to support you? (family, friends, carers…)
If the attempt seems imminent then you need to address the situation by calling emergency services, going to hospital and not leaving that person on their own.
Suicide is preventable and by talking openly about it in general or by specifically approaching someone you are worried about will help in reducing the number of deaths each year from suicide. We shouldn’t be afraid – it is common to have suicidal thoughts and we as caring human beings have the ability to help. By reaching out and speaking to someone about how they are truly feeling you are showing that person that they are not alone. Whilst I can’t say with any certainty that if someone had asked me if I was feeling suicidal that I would not have made attempts it certainly would have gone a long way in making me feel less alone.
Dazzi T., Gribble R., Wessely S. and Fear N. T. (2014) Does asking about suicide and related behaviours induce suicidal ideation? What is the evidence? Psychological Medicine, 44(16):3361-3