20%

Lance Armstrong won a battle against the odds to survive testicular cancer before going on to become the 7 time winner of the Tour de France.  By going public about his battle with cancer he did much to eliminate the taboo around talking about cancer, and testicular cancer in particular.

‘I wish I was dead’.  ‘The world/my family would be better off without me.’  These are just a couple of the deadly thoughts that have plagued me over the years, as they have countless others.

20% is the proportion of people with Bi Polar Disorder who kill themselves.  For people diagnosed with Scizophrenia the rates are 10 -15%.  About 40% of patints with these enduring mental health problems will make an attempt on their life.

All of this sounds serious, macabre, even.  But  it is essential that we (that means you, dear reader) are not afraid to discuss this topic.  The novelist Jeanette Winterson writes about the topic with an unblinking eye: ‘I was thinking about suicide because it had to be an option. I had to be able to think about it and on good days I did so because it gave me back a sense of control – for one last time I would be in control’.

There are other narrates that we have when it comes to suicide, then.  While the  G.P.s, C.P.N.s, Psychiatrists and staff on hospital wards try to divine our intentions they sometimes miss what the German novelist and Nobel Laureate Herman Hesse (1877 – 1962) charachterised as suicide being a state of mind.  He was refering to people who are nominally alive. The heart plods on, but they have left life.

For me, as for other people for whom mood swings play havoc with our daily lives, the risk of suicide is prevalant during the depressive phases of the illness.  Nothing unusual there, then.  Depression is the poster boy (or girl) for suicide.  Uni polar depression accounts for 1 in every 100 deaths in the U.K. But the reason that the suicide rate is so high among people with the various forms of Bi Polar Disorder is because it is not just down to depression.  The high moods also carry with them risks that are more serious than emptying bank accounts and rushing headlong into ill – advised sexual liaisons.  The common feature in these problematic behaviours is impulsivity; and it is this single feature that means that people with Bi Polar Disorder are vulnerable to taking their own lives on a whim. It is not uncommon to think of suicide as being planned; a concious decsion; preparations for which are made in advance.  The suicide note speaks of reflection and decision.  Killing yourself on impulse has its own dangers because the risk of it is much more difficult for the medical profession to identify.

Some people may think that the time that someone suffering from depression, be it uni – or Bi Polar, is most likely to kill themselves in the winter months, when there is the least ammount of light. It is cold and the dark swirls in earlier and earlier in the afternoon.

This is not so. As the mood stirs, starts to improve slightly, then the energy and resolve to action emerge.

from The Wasteland

“I saw with my own eyes the Sibyl of Cumae hanging in a jar, and when the boys said to her, Sibyl, what do you want? she replied I want to die.”

I. The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee

With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,

And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, 10

And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,

My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,

And I was frightened. He said, Marie,

Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.

In the mountains, there you feel free.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter

T.S. Eliot (1888 -1965)

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