Lauren's Story: Where Are We Now?
Digital team's blog
Losing someone because mental illness is difficult enough without the stigma that can come with it. Lauren tells us what it was like losing her brother, and how people around her reacted. You can follow Lauren on Twitter here.
Depression is often described as having a big grey cloud over your head, following your every step. I would imagine in this cloud there are thoughts being held and manifested into ideas that seem much worse than what they are: “why does everybody hate me? I always feel alone. I am not wanted by anyone. There is no point.” I can admit that once or twice I have had one of two of these thoughts but on a whole I try to keep a positive outlook on life.
When I was 16, I arrived home with my family one afternoon, after being on holiday for a few days, to police officers on the doorstop with news in regards to a passing away. I never had much knowledge of how an illness could affect a unit so graphically until that moment. Paul, completed suicide on the 8th August 2009. He was 29 years old, a respected police officer and a loving son, brother and uncle. I knew Paul was unwell but I did not the extremes of mental illness until it had reached the point of no return.
As a family we suffered an unimaginable loss. We soon found that the stigma attached to Paul’s decision made our grieving process almost impossible to overcome.
The definition of stigma: “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”
Can you believe that even in this day and age suicide or to feel suicidal is a mark of disgrace? I can tell you, that close friends were not allowed to hang out with me as their parents did not want ‘my family’ rubbing off on them. Close family friends on a whole removed themselves from our circle, because for Paul to have felt the way he did, it must have meant that my family were the cause.
Bereavement through suicide is not text book.
I suffered with anxiety for quite some time after this, and am able to say I have overcome this through fighting the same battles continuously and keeping my head up for the last 8 years. Finally at some point, I had to realise that blame was not going to be the answer for Paul’s passing. Speaking out and sharing this story as many times as I can will be how we break the stigma of mental illness.
The problem we face is not feeling confident in the fact we can share the emotions we feel, or the worries we manifest. It is not about having every person around you understand but more that they are aware. In general, we should be aware of how our actions or words affect another person’s life.
Too often do we make throw away comments that to ourselves we see as harmless, however, if you catch somebody at the wrong time – regardless of whether you intended to or not – that moment can stay with them. I speak from experience. I worry and I do it incredibly well.
As of now, my family continues to tell our story. We do not sugar-coat Paul’s passing and we shouldn’t have to - no family should.
To this day we continue to support and raise money for mental health organisations. We take part in spreading awareness and hope that one life can be saved by the fundraising we do. We have turned our loss into something much greater and that’s what eases the pain.