Our attention is an odd thing. We are, in a sense, the master and controller of it. But are we really any good at making the most of it?
Before I go any further with this, check out this film that I’ve made in collaboration with Davor (who I’ll introduce to you in a bit). It’s a minute and half long attention test (I know you love tests) so sit back, press play, follow the instructions and good luck!
How did you get on? Did you get it right?
Some of you may have counted the correct number of passes but most (aside perhaps from the super astute amongst you!) would have completely missed the man slowly walking across from the right, standing still in the centre and eventually exiting left and out of shot. This illustration of our selective attention (originally developed by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris) represents an interesting psychology and an almost unnerving duping of the brain.
But of course you’ll have noticed that our version here is looking to make a far wider, more pertinent point. Suicide rates in the UK are growing rapidly, yet society’s attention to it remains pretty thin. In the words of the Samaritans “This Silence is Killing us” and we wanted to produce something that communicates exactly this. Why? It’s time for you to to meet Davor….
***Please note, to scroll immediately to the following sections: click here to seek help, or here if you’re keen to learn more about the issue as a whole or here to support our fundraising campaign for MIND and Pandas Foundation.***
There are certain emails I get that break my heart the moment they’re read. A few weeks ago one such email landed in my inbox that was written by a man called Davor. He explained how he had lost his wife to suicide on the 4th of September, only a month or so earlier, and how after years of her struggling with various forms of depression and years of him caring around the clock for her, her wellbeing and ultimately her safety, she was now gone and he was now alone. Over coffee one morning, he explained what had happened –
“It’s the day you feared the most and did everything in your power to prevent. The day you find her and realise you never had a chance to save her. You see her on the bed, you know something is wrong instantly. She left her hair open. You scream. She put on something nice to wear. You shout for help, you cry but there is no good bye. Just death. So much pain and so much suffering – she just couldn’t stand it anymore”
Meeting Davor I could see a man in a huge amount of the worst pain you could imagine. His words were as tough as any to hear. But I was also struck by his incredible desire to be pragmatic about the wider issue in front of him and to do what he could do to address it for the sake of others.
“There’s one fundamental problem that affects everything else. The lack of recognition and knowledge leaves us hugely ignorant when it comes to depressive disorders in the UK. Modern society doesn’t know how to handle it so they look the other way. The NHS does what it always does, following procedures and spending a lot of money on consultants whilst GP’s prescribe pills without much further support at all. We have to change this – and it starts with us all paying attention.”
Over the following few weeks we devised a plan to create something that illustrated this point of us all needing to pay this issue far more attention than we currently do, and with this film I’m confident that we’ve produced a powerful way to do just this. But I also want to be clear about not trivialising suicide and all it’s many causes as the wider picture is complex beyond belief – paying attention is merely one of many first steps.
With this in mind, I’ve collated a bunch of resources below specifically for those who might consider themselves vulnerable, as well as for people who want to read around the topic a little further. Finally, Davor and I have created a fundraising page as we wanted to give people to opportunity to donate towards our two chosen charities, MIND and PANDAS FOUNDATION, should they want to turn their attention into tangible action!
“We won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect.”
MIND provides support to those experiencing mental health problems via multiple avenues. As well as having a dedicated helpline they also have schemes such as ‘Local Minds’, these are independent charities across England and Wales that are run by local people, for local people. Local Minds vary in size and services, including local campaigning on mental health issues, supported housing, employment and training schemes and many more. Mind also run local and national campaigns in support of those who suffer from mental health issues, with the support of many celebrity ambassadors including Stephen Fry, Mind’s President.
“Samaritans believes that a reduction in suicide is not only possible but that it is an urgent and important priority which does not receive enough attention”
Samaritans are there for those that have suicidal thoughts and for people that have suffered from the loss of those that have taken their own life. Samaritans offer a 24 hour, confidential helpline they also run over 100 branches where you can visit and speak to someone face-to-face. Samaritans have over 20,000 volunteers across the UK doing outreach work in schools and local communities.
“Male suicide accounts for 77% of all suicides here and is now the single biggest cause of death in men aged 20 – 49 in England and Wales.”
Helpline Nationwide: 0800 58 58 58 (5pm – midnight)
Helpline London: 0808 802 58 58 (5pm – midnight)
WebChat – https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/get-help/
Text: 07537 404 717
CALM stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably and that is exactly what they do. They specifically campaign for men as there is a huge disparity between male and female suicide rates in the UK, let alone globally. CALM take action through several means, they run a lot of awareness and fundraising events, they offer support via their website and helpline to UK males and they also run www.thecalmzone.net a site that has a mix of articles, cartoons and stories where men can find information, share stories and access support. CALM is challenging a culture where men do not seek help when they need it.
“Prevention of young suicide”
Papyrus’s vision is a society which speaks openly about suicide and has the resources to help young people who may have suicidal thoughts. Papyrus runs suicide prevention talks that are community oriented and designed to break down the stigma surrounding depression and suicide. Papyrus focuses on young people that suffer from suicidal thoughts and believe that many suicides are preventable, they believe that the stigma around mental health problems and depression needs to be eradicated for this to happen.
“Pre and Post Natal Depression support and advice”
Helpline: 0843 289 84 01
Email: website form here
Pandas Foundation provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. Their local Minds support over 250,000 people across England and Wales. Their services include supported housing, crisis helplines, drop-in centres, employment and training schemes, counselling and befriending.
“A Sanctuary for the Suicidal”
The Maytree Suicide Respite Centre is the only place of its kind in the UK and fills a gap in services, between the medical support of the NHS and the helplines and drop-in centres of the voluntary sector. They offer a free 4-night/5-day stay, and the opportunity to be befriended and heard in complete confidence, without judgement and with compassion and warmth.
If you’re reading this and you live outside the UK but would like support in your area then please visit this list of international links from Suicide.org.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
It goes without saying that the issue in front of us is beyond complicated – there is no quick fix – but there’s lots of really valuable insight available if you’re interested in exploring it further.
The Samaritans, for example, produce an annual Suicide Statistics Report that delves deep into the numbers and demographics (interestingly, they’ve also just launched a mobile app that monitors twitter to for suicide warnings). MIND has a suite of online information from outlining the various types of mental illnesses to explaining the types of drugs and treatments that are available. For wider opinion, Guardian Journalist, Ally Fogg, has analysed why our “failure over 30 years to even dent the number of men who kill themselves is a scandal that has cost thousands of lives”. Whilst Owen Jones has specifically written about this issue of silence and suicide with a huge amount of journalistic credibility.
For more bite-sized digestion, TED talks such as Kevin Briggs‘s “The Bridge between Suicide and Life” are truly eye opening. As a former patroller of the Golden Gate Bridge, he shares his interactions with those he’s met standing on the edge of life – concluding with some powerful advice. JD Schramm asks us to “Break the silence surrounding suicide and suicide attempts” whilst there’s also a playlist of 7 brilliant talks on and around the mental health and depression.
Finally, there’s a few books that I’d like to share with you. An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison is one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. The Boy Who was raised as a Dog is a book that’s been recommended to me a few times but one I haven’t got around to reading yet.
OUR CHARITY FUNDRAISING
As well as raising awareness around the need to pay this issue of suicide more attention, we wanted to provide people with the opportunity to support 2 of our chosen charities. Our goal is £100,000, which is ambitious, but let’s give it a go.