Oh right! That might mean a diversion from my familiar and comforting "look on the bright side" platitudes and slopping around in buckets of statistics to take a risk and poke about in the underbelly of mental health, the dark side of suicide and the edge of self-harm. Anyone interested in coming along…
Let me explain, I've spent the past 10 years talking almost every day about suicide - with people, for people, about people. I train, I talk, I read, I write, I study. I listen. I repost all the wonderful amazing efforts of those I know around the globe who also do this work, but I realised that I also want to talk, I have something to say about how it feels to be this person who spends a lot of her time surrounded by death and pain and struggle and survival - and I suspect other people might have something to say about this too. So that's the stuff that hurts.
The where it hurts - is maybe a little more controversial. I'm interested in this because of the chasm that is often portrayed between personal and professional interest in these topics. There seems to be a grand canyon between survivors, service-users and the professionals who get paid (or sometimes not paid) to help them. This spans everything from statistics that tell us barely anything about anything, not least why suicide always has been and continues to be part of the human condition, to a consistently harsh treatment of people who self-harm by certain groups of professionals.
What's up with that? Why is there still such a lack of understanding for people who try to take their lives, or hurt themselves? Why is it so hard to listen to death and pain - do we think we're going to catch it? Are we scared that finding empathy for someone in that darkest place will touch our own buried pain or cast shadows on the illusions of our lives? For me, personally, it is about acknowledging our own humanity and fragility and that sometimes when we are in that deep dark pit with someone that we can feel it tugging at the edge of our own consciousness.
There are training courses to tell us what we should be doing, what's helpful, what works - I know, I deliver them, I believe in them completely. I am all behind the research that is looking at protective factors and the resilience that keeps people on this planet alive every day, despite pain and unbearable circumstances. But I am also interested in all the spaces in between, what are we not saying - maybe there's some gold dust in there?
“Irrespective of any external, regulatory force, our capacity for feeling is in itself an insatiable and bottomless abyss.”
And I'm not going to feign altruism for a moment, that I'm blogging for the greater good. I am curious about what I have to say and what anyone else out there has to say too and I am hoping that getting into the habit of writing regularly will kick my ass into gear to produce at least one of the books I claim to have hiding inside me - the current idea is dark and twisty and all about death and funerals - ah the lure of exploring an entirely fictional world…
Dr Murphy - signing off