With deepest sympathy…

TW: Suicide.
(Some information has been changed due to anonymity)

So I’m writing because I need to get this out. I need catharsis. There is a cloud hanging over the street I live in this week – It may be a while before the mood lifts.

Tuesday 2nd May 2017 is a day I’m not going to forget in the foreseeable future.
I was at placement, awaiting a telephone call about some personal news. Instead, when I answered the call, the message relayed to me was one that shocked me instantly. Our next door neighbour of two years – a fifty year old mother of four decided that the only thing left for her to do in a hopeless situation was to take her own life.

She was well known in the street and her loss has touched more than her immediate family. I’ve counted at least three other households that she had regular contact with, all working through the loss, but our loss is insignificant (and rightly) to that of the children she left behind. I’m not admonishing her decision to do what she did. I cannot fathom the strength of feeling that someone feels when they decide that they cannot go on, and I’m not here to judge that.

My thoughts remain with the children.

She came to me for help and advice and on the occasions she did she was met with a cup of tea, as many digestives as we could both get through and an open ear. I didn’t help as such, but I advised that she could and should go and speak to someone, signposted her to the right people to access counselling through my professional network and offered to help her to speak to her GP about the possibility of access to local MH support services – or at the very least to start a course of antidepressants, which were avenues she explored initially. For a while things seemed to be heading towards the positive.

None-the-less, things remained mounting up for her for some time. There had been changes to her life more recently. In January she lost her mother due to natural causes, however, she was unable to get from Kent to Manchester for the funeral and as such, she was low in mood – upset for not being able to attend.

In March, she was re-assessed for benefits. When she spoke to me, she was highly anxious and worried that the assessment would find her fit for work, despite the chronic health problems she was living with. I tried to re-assure her that she could appeal it if things went badly – that the Citizen’s Advice Bureau would be able to help.

Two weeks ago, she got the letter outlining that she was not eligible for the higher rate PIP, which she had been using to subsidise the shortfall in her rent/housing benefit. Essentially informed that she was ‘not disabled enough’ with the chronic physical health issues she had, facing the prospect of losing her home she decided that she’d had enough of this life.

At 15:00hrs, her eighteen-year-old son found her, with a note outlining everything that had happened and her reasons for doing what she did. He was with a friend, one of our other neighbours. Soon after I got home, her children were standing outside with vacant looks on their faces – sullen with grief and swollen from crying. They’re going to need as much support as they can get – now more than ever. They’ve lost their mother and soon enough, they’ll lose their home.

We were interviewed by the Police. The forensic team conducted their business and she was taken to rest. The children left with some family members and they’ve come back on one occasion to collect things. The house next door is empty as I write.

My thoughts remain with the children.

I’m not in the place to make this political – I cannot, because I’m still in the place where I am processing what has happened to my neighbour and her family. However, I will say this – we deserve everything we get if we continue to deride those who need us most.

Tuning in to how I am feeling underneath the surface – I am aware that I am angry and this is an incident which will only fuel my fire. I’m aware that I’m feeling helpless also, because I know that in the next month, her children will have to leave a home they’ve grown up in. Regardless of any possibility to, they’re not going to stay –  And no one would expect them to even if they could. And then my thoughts turn to the fact that we’ve destroyed the assistance that young adults need when they’re faced with similar or worse circumstances.

We’ve regressed as a society. There aren’t enough homes for people who need help in various circumstances and the result of that is to punitively punish those that have ‘desirable,’ homes via bedroom taxes. We must take a long hard look at ourselves for getting to this place, and allowing ourselves to get swept further along.

We’ve allowed ourselves, and continue to allow ourselves to take problems out on our neighbours, our work colleagues, the disabled, those who are not in peak mental health and people who are different. People who live through what we live through or worse, without the luck that we have to not be exactly in their shoes. We know it’s a monumental task to change the system, and we get frustrated at a system hammering down on us. Resultant human behaviour dictates we lash out at those closest to us because we feel powerlessness, it’s difficult to change the system we’re a part of, so we send our frustrations in other directions in order to see the immediate repercussions of our actions, despite how short-sighted they are.

Something I was told when I was a child was to think about others – to think about those who look like they need help and to offer it if you can – because on any one day that could be you. We don’t know what fortunes bring us on a day to day basis, and at any one time we could befall sudden ill health, a loss of job, or any myriad of other issues which leaves us vulnerable and reliant on the state or the good-will of others. We could be in the place where we cannot get up off our feet when life has knocked us down a bit too hard. It’s a resonating lesson throughout my life. I see it in my professional practice.

We’ve written to the children and requested that they need only to knock and ask if there is anything we can do – but realistically, what can we do except be neighbourly, think about them and offer what we can to help?

My thoughts remain with the children.

If you have been affected by this, or this has caused significant distress and you are finding it difficult to cope immediately – please contact your local Single Point of Access (NHS) or the Samaritans.

If you have been affected by this and are able to cope, but have found this distressing, please speak to your GP, your counsellor/therapist, your care co-ordinator, or other healthcare professionals that can support you.

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