"Suicide is everyone's business": Our staff engagement officer shares her personal experience

Date: 10 September 2019

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. To mark the day, our Staff Engagement Officer, Dominika Karpowicz, shares her personal experience of suicide and why it’s so important to talk about.

Where were you on the 4th September 2013 - do you remember? I remember exactly where I was.

I had just started another day, at a previous job. I remember my phone lighting up with a text message. Naturally I went to open it, hoping it would brighten up my day. I remember being alarmed by the unknown number. Yet, as I went on to read the message, nothing could prepare me for what it would say:

“I’m very sad to tell you that my dear sister Maria, is no longer with us.”

My heart sank and a knot formed in my throat; I instantly knew what this was referring to. As cliché as it sounds, it was a life shattering moment that no one could ever prepare me for.

Just saying Maria’s name brings back a flood of memories; we were childhood friends. We went to Polish School together, every Saturday.

"She was the cheeky little girl who often pleaded for more of your treats! But as Maria grew up, that cheeky little girl appeared more and more troubled."

I mean, I knew she suffered from depression, but it never crossed my mind that such a beautiful, intelligent young lady would ever harm herself (I went on to learn that depression does not discriminate and listing reasons why people should be happy is hugely unhelpful).

After the initial shock, what followed were feelings of guilt and even shame; how could this happen? Why didn’t I see the signs? What if I could have stopped this? Suicide creates a ripple effect. For every person that dies, at least 10 people are affected. They could be family, friends, colleagues or community members. People who are bereaved by suicide, are sadly more at risk from suicide themselves. That’s why something called ‘postvention’ is just as important as ‘prevention’.

The more I researched into suicide, the more I realised what a huge public health problem it was, especially in the East of England, in Cambridgeshire, where I live; where Maria lived. The rates are some of the highest in the UK. Therefore, as you can imagine, exactly a year later in 2014, when I was offered the chance to help launch a local suicide prevention campaign, STOP Suicide, I jumped at the opportunity. I felt I owed it to Maria and everyone else. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made and marked the start of my mental health promotion journey.

Around 1 in 5 of us has had suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives. So why do we find it so difficult to talk about? It mostly boils down to the stigma, taboo and myths around suicide. The most common myth, according to Samaritans, is that asking directly about suicide, will prompt someone to kill themselves. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. It’s actually a relief for someone to be asked, so they can be reassured, talk about how they’re feeling and then be signposted to get help.

"Therefore, despite the myths, most suicides are preventable, and we can all help. Suicide is everybody’s business."

My top tips for suicide prevention:

  • Try to tackle the myths
  • Be aware of the warning signs
  • Reach out to someone if you’re worried about them – could be as simple as asking ‘how are you?’ Sometimes asking twice!
  • Ask directly and openly about suicide – this signals it’s OK to talk about it and breaks the taboo.
  • Train non mental health professionals to keep someone safe (Mental Health First Aid is a great start; I highly recommend it!).


Now, let’s make sure suicide is the LAST taboo, so no one else has to suffer in silence.

Thanks for taking the time to read my story – I hope it has helped or touched you in some way.

Take care,
Dominika

  • Summary:

    Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. To mark the day, our Staff Engagement Officer, Dominika Karpowicz, shares her personal experience of suicide and why it’s so important to talk about.