When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.
On a normal day on a normal walk I witnessed something not so normal. I witnessed a suicide attempt.
At a distance we saw police cars and wondered what they were looking for. As we got closer, simply because it was our route home not because we were being nosey, I noticed a person precariously positioned. My heart broke. I could not believe how fast this moment took over my emotions. I was devastated for them. “What? Why?” My mind kept racing. I felt guilty for walking past and carrying on home but what could I do? There were trained professionals on site yet I still felt guilty. I wanted to stay to make sure they were ok but I realised that my presence would not be helpful and would probably add extra pressure for both the person and the police. I also knew that if I stayed then there was a chance I could witness something traumatic. So we carried on walking.
While I knew that carrying on was the right thing to do, I guess it felt selfish because of the pain I felt for this person and that I wanted to help. I couldn’t have helped though. I’m not a trained professional. I’m barely able to cope with my own issues let alone help someone else. I felt so helpless. My mind raced and I panicked at the idea of “What if we got there before the police?” How would I have known they needed help? I may have judged them to be a kid fooling around because you know how kids are right? Always up to their silly antics. If it had been clear what would, what could I have done? My social anxiety is so messed up that it would have tried to save me from making an embarrassing mistake rather than take the risk of looking stupid and potentially helping someone. I need to be able to help don’t I?
I spent the day worrying, wondering, and checking the news. Nothing was reported. Nothing mentioned in Facebook groups. I assumed no news was good news and tried to work. “Could I have done anything differently? What if we got there first? What if I see someone like this again? Why can’t I stop thinking about this?”
I learnt about being a witness to suicide. It is not unlike PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as you have been a witness to something traumatic and stressful. I don’t think I’ve seen anything traumatic with my own eyes. Not like this. In a way it’s easy to dismiss it as something not massively traumatic to witness. It wasn’t like seeing someone get attacked which is exactly what happened to someone I know and while I hope I helped them my mind will tell me I could have done more. This was traumatic because I’ve been close to where they are and to see it from the other side… I felt physically heart broken.
After tweeting out a message of support for those who may need it the Samaritans replied to me;
Seeing someone who is struggling can be distressing. It’s important for you to make sure you’re okay too. Give yourself time to rest and process what’s happened. If you need to talk about how you’re feeling, please call us on 116 123, or email email@example.com
I’ve never spoken with them before. I once called a support team at university because I was incredibly stressed but never the Samaritans. I didn’t feel like it was my place to speak to them as I was only walking by. I shouldn’t bother them. They need to be free to help those who need help. Right?
“It’s important for you to make sure you’re okay too.”
Am I ok? Interestingly my Apple Watch detected the moment of actual heart break that I felt. While I may tell myself that I’m fine there is data that shows something happened to me. I spent Thursday trying not to cry and obsessively checking the news hoping this person was ok. Today is Saturday and I still feel a little connected to those tears. As I sit here writing this I can feel the breeze on my skin, the wind rustling leaves off the trees, children playing in the distance and I can see the clouds floating over the world. Taking a breath and I feel ok. I’m ok. breathes listens to the wind Maybe I do need to talk to them. Maybe I’m avoiding doing so because it’s easier not to deal with the trauma of the other day and how it relates to my own feelings. Maybe I don’t want to call them because of some absurd fear of being someone who needed to call them?
Maybe all of this, while I’ve tried to not make what happened to this person about me because I’m that fucking egotistical that it makes for good content, maybe all of this has hit me for one simple reason. I’ve only ever thought about suicide. Now I’ve seen it in front of me and it’s so fucking real I can’t handle it. I don’t want it to be real for me or for them.
- Suicide warning signs
- Free online training from Zero Suicide Alliance
- Suicide Prevention – Find Help Now – Grassroots
- Stay Alive App – Grassroots Suicide Prevention
- Samaritans’ Media Guidelines
- I Grieved a Stranger After He Killed Himself in Front of Me – VICE
- Causes of PTSD: Witnessing a suicide – PTSD UK
- Witnesses – Support After Suicide