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I have opinions. Wanna hear them? World Suicide Prevention Day

How To Stop A Train and other thoughts in my mind

You get one day. 10 September. ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’. Twenty-four hours to ‘create action through hope’ according to the World Health Organisation. Twenty-four hours to ‘unite in a commitment to reduce suicide, empowering individuals with the confidence to take action’.

Wear purple. Wear teal. Or is it turquoise? The WHO and other organisations can’t quite agree on that important aspect. Much like the little colour cards in hardware shops where the teal or turquoise is called Bollywood Jade or Mermaid Splash.

Raise awareness around the globe through social media tiles, website banners and email signatures. The WHO pleads, via their snappy website, that we ‘imagine a world without suicide’ where we ‘Check in’, ‘Stay Connected’ and ‘Reach out’ because ‘We all have a role to play’.

Did you know that, just this year in Australia, there were 319 deaths by suicide? And in 2017, 3000 people died by suicide (Black Dog Institute) and that every year, over 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt. (Black Dog Institute) and that about 1 in 8 Australians has seriously considered suicide at some stage in their life. (Aust Gov dept of Health and Aged Care) and that the latest data shows that around 8-9 lives are lost per day to suicide (Australian Bureau of Statistics) and that Lifeline received 1over one million contacts last year. What a lot of numbers. What a lot of people. What a lot of social media tiles.

Mental disorders were present in 63% of people who died by suicide. Depression is one of those mental disorders. Depression isn’t feeling sad because you’ve had a bad day. It’s not feeling so down that you cry a lot. In fact, when you are in a spectacularly bad depressive episode, you don’t cry much at all. Depression means withdrawing from friends and family, trouble concentrating, feeling overwhelmed or empty or numb, thinking nothing ever good happens, being constantly tired, and having no hope.

I am one of those people with depression (and other mental stuff like bipolar disorder). Usually depression is the carry-on luggage when bipolar disorder is boarding the flight to your brain. It’s certainly in the passport. Twice last year, in November, I rang the Mental Illness Crisis Assessment and Teatment Team. (They're basically triage for mental people like me). Last November, I nearly became one of those numbers listed above.

Here is another fact. It’s a bit random but it relates. A Melbourne Metro train travels at 130 kilometres an hour. In 2013, thirty-six people died by suicide in front of a Melbourne train. Suicide by train. That’s what it’s actually called. Ten people tried but didn’t succeed. Countless others thought about it. Really, really thought about it. (The Age). I wonder how many have died by train since then.

Back to depression.

Depression is strange. It’s supposed to exist as a tightly bound entity inside your head where nothing much can impact on its existence. It’s just there. But stuff does impact. Anxiety, for example. Anxiety is likes depression, and usually tags along. “Hey! Hey! Wanna come play? Hey? Hey!” Suddenly, you are in a situation where you’re depressed but anxious about being depressed then depressed about your anxiety. Obviously, the two should be separated in the classroom that is your brain.

But eventually, depression tells anxiety to go and play somewhere else, because depression has drifted further into the black hole that takes you into the below. You can look back up at the circle of light but it’s so far away and why reach for it anyway? Your people stand at the top of the hole blocking the sunlight which is good because it’s much too bright, don’t you know? They call but their words are muffled by the black cushions of foam that fill your ears. You don’t care because suddenly it’s too hard to look up. They’re probably saying horrible things anyway because your brain is saying those things and you believe your brain. Your brain insists that you’re not worth any space. It speaks the truth. Surely your people don’t need you. You’re so far beyond, away, removed from the concept of people wanting you. They’ll be fine. In fact, they’ll think you weren’t ever there. This will solve everything. Your brain says so and you believe your brain. That depressed part of your brain which is confused by the rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts and the ups and downs and let’s fly so high and fall so low. That’s where you are now: in the low. So low. It’s not pleasant in the low. Uncomfortable. But the high is so far away and all that climbing seems much too difficult. Tiring. Why climb, anyway? There’s no reason to. There’s no hope. None that you can see, so why look for it? You’re so tired. So, so tired. Go to sleep.

Look! There are little tunnels at the bottom of the low with exit doors that expand like those in Alice in Wonderland. All the tunnels offer sensible exits. Take your time. Not too long. Take your time. Not too long. Choose. It’s the only way out of the low. There! That exit. The one with the train tracks which are silver and pretty and parallel. That’s rather tidy. Although, it’ll be a shame to make a mess on those silver lines, but you’re sure that’s okay. You won’t be tired anymore. Your brain won’t dominate the stage with a monologue so strong that it overrides any calls from the above. Listening to the above is impossible when the below is so loud. You nod. Yes, this is the only option. The tunnel expands and you stand on the edge.

There’s a bumpy rubbery strip at the edge of the train platforms in Melbourne. It’s yellow. The painted words warn not to stand too close to the edge. I used to stand on the last row of bumps. The row closest to the edge, because what do painted words know.

I used to stare at the silver lines of the tracks. They aren’t silver, really. Rather tarnished. Perhaps they haven’t checked in a mirror lately, but that’s understandable because mirrors lie. I used to stare at those tracks. How parallel they were. Sitting on top of their perpendicular sleepers all bolted in safely. Sometimes a bolt was missing and I wondered if the tracks felt safe.

A Metro train travelling at 130 kilometres per hour creates a region of low pressure called the Venturi Effect, which means that a person too close to the edge is likely to get sucked under the train. Interesting fact. I liked to research my choice of death.

When you’re that far down in the below, your brain tells you that your people will be fine. Surely, they will move on because the space that you take up is inconsequential. You’re pointless, you see. It’s strange when you’re that far down in the below; you’ve convinced yourself that your people will be fine because they’ve sensed that you’ve travelled through a tunnel. But the train driver won’t be fine. See, you’re a stranger to that train driver. They’re not sensing your sudden appearance. Much like your people not sensing your sudden disappearance because it’s not always obvious that a person is struggling with suicidal ideation. ( That’s a thought. That driver won’t be fine because they’re suddenly in charge of your sleep, your mess, your belief that you’re not worthy to access space in the world.

I didn’t want that driver to have the responsibility of taking my pain. It was mine. Those train lines would become my bed. And I would have no pain.

The driver would activate the brakes, screeching, crying, then they would vibrate from the driver’s cabin, trembling, convinced that they’d killed someone when all they’d done is relieve someone of their pain. My pain. But pain is transferrable. Isn’t it?

So I didn’t fall from the edge that day. Even though, on many days, I nearly did. Oh, so close. On many days, I wanted to adjust the soles of my sensible shoes on those little yellow rubber dots because they felt like the starting blocks at the Olympics. I nearly did. But I didn’t. I failed. How ironic. Failing to die. Even though my brain was so sure that I’d succeed. It screamed obscenities at me as I stepped back and didn’t die.

I went home. I don’t remember how. But I went home and handed my car keys and my phone to my wife and asked her to look after them because I needed to sleep. I was still very far down in the below, but something had made me turn my head and look back while I was in that tunnel with the pretty silver tracks. Something made me walk back to stare at a tiny ladder decorated in Bollywood Jade and Mermaid Splash, or perhaps it was a knotted rope, or maybe that netting they make people climb at challenge three in the Ninja Warrior course.

I went home. My wife was sad that my brain had told me that there wouldn’t be a void where I’d been, that she wouldn’t see the void where I’d been, so we spent some time trying to fill that void with words of love, and hugs that healed. I was still far below but somehow I’d closed the door to the tunnel that led to the train and the parallel tracks.

I went to the psychiatric hospital for a while after that, where I learned that, even if I was in the below, I didn’t have to listen to the below. On 10 September, the WHO wants to create action through hope. Hope. I’m not sure that people who succeeded in their own death, or thought about succeeding in it, cradled much hope. It certainly took me a long time to find hope. But I did. I found it in a pocket of my brain; that little coin pocket in jeans which no one uses because that pocket is too small for anything sensible, except, maybe, to hold some hope. It was probably just as well that hope found a place to sit quietly and not lost, because the rest of my brain was activity engaged in my assassination. My brain still tries to fulfil its mission because assassins are tenacious. I think it’s in the job description. But hope pops up from that small pocket and lets me know that it’s okay to fail. Some days it needs a microphone and its shouty bossy voice. I find hope in that pocket. I look for it and because I do I create action. Which means that every day is ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’, and on September 10, I'll be walking and fundraising and wearing a shouty shirt with a pin-on label that says that I'm walking because of my own story and if someone stops me and asks what my own story is, I'll tell them because suicide affects everyone and shouldn't hide in the shadows.

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