Generally I prefer not to write about current scandals and upsets, I prefer not to jump on media bandwagons or scrap around in tabloid hubbubs. Go too far in that direction you’ll find yourself with a site people think of as relevant, topical and interesting. But these past few weeks, with the death of Jacinta Saldanha, I’ve had suicide on my mind.

You’ll be aware how a while back a couple members of a family with a flimsy claim to an anachronistic position of limited power and unlimited privilege announced they’re expecting a baby. And how millions of nosey people with nothing in the way of class consciousness were interested. And how the media went berserk with nothing articles about how the future-sprog will one day wear the world’s most expensive hat while the rest of us go about our business. And how a couple of lame-ass DJs made a lame-ass prank call to remind us how prank calls stopped being funny about two minutes before Alexander Graham Bell was born. And how one of the nurses they called gave out a bit of information she shouldn’t have and justified the existence of every Data Protection Officer the world over and their end-of-days lecturing in every organisation everywhere. And how one of the nurses killed herself, and how the world stopped for a second and shook its head.

What does this tell us about the role of the media? About its obsession with the royal family? About prank calls and ratings-grabs and that time we upset Andrew Sachs? Nothing. It tells us nothing we didn’t know already. It’s what it tells us about life and mental health and suicide that matters. It tells us how life hangs by the thinnest of threads and how life is a pair of scissors ready to cut itself to fuck.

Suicide’s a big killer of people. The Samaritans reckon a million people around the world die every year by suicide, with more than 5,000 in the UK. That’s enough to touch most of us. I know people who’ve tried to kill themselves and I’ve known people who’ve managed it and I know people who’ve lost people. And it’s an awful shitfest of tragicness, with all the grief that comes with losing someone with added layers of guilt and failure and lost opportunities and embarrassment and feeling looked at and judged. There are reasons for suicide; mostly not the ones we imagine afterwards. Like The Samaritans say, it’s a complicated thing. It’s not often the result of a single problem, more a bunch of problems bound together. There are problems that seem unmanageable and unhappiness that seems intolerable and maybe is. But suicide’s a permanent solution to a temporary set of problems, and it seems survivors are mostly glad to find themselves alive, glad they survived the decision they made. And it’s around the decision point, when someone’s giving it serious thought, us Zeroes can get stuck in and be all awesome and life saving and that.

Like yer regular first aid, which helps save lives and fill blog entries, we have mental health first aid that teaches the art of suicide intervention. I did a course on this a few years back and a refresher a few weeks back and have had to use it once or twice. I’d be linking all over the place here so you could look into it yourself but it seems the companies who run the training would rather get paid than give out their ideas for free. This, then, comes from a memory known for being fairly lousy:

First, we have to be on the lookout for people who seem down or distant or maybe different to how they seem usually. We have to have a conversation, using a spot of tact and subtlety, to find how lousy they’re feeling. We have to ask a hard question and we have to use the S word: “Are you thinking of suicide?” Anything less than that leaves us and them open to misinterpretation. We have to ask their reasons for wanting to die, respect them and not be afraid to talk about them, not jump in with how wrong they are. We have to ask their reasons for staying alive, figuring most people aren’t a hundred percent sold on the idea of dying. We have to bring those reasons out and big them up. We have to get an idea of their plan, if they’re thinking vaguely about not being around any more or if they’ve bought tablets ready to swallow or picked out the bridge they’re going from. We have to disrupt the plan with them, agree to get shot of the tablets or find a way to resist the temptation of the bridge if only for a few days. We have to get them to help that knows what it’s doing like we’d get someone to a hospital after they collapse, and we have to follow up and see how they’re doing once the crisis is over.

There are people thinking about suicide. It’s on us to find them and help them. In the meantime, The Samaritans are the Chazza of the Month. Christmas is a rough time for some people, and a bit of your money will give them someone to talk to.

Photo credit: Samaritans