Every week, in Cumbria, another person loses their life to suicide. It's a shocking figure and, of course, a very difficult time for their families.
Fiona Marley Paterson has been talking with Paula Mart, from Penrith, who lost her daughter 3 years ago. Watch the full interview here (transcript below):
PM – Jaymie was always a very bright, happy bouncy young lady. Who never stopped at anything and always said if there was anything to be done of her she would do it. She was beautiful both inside and outside. But like any daughter, you know, she put me through it as it were. From time to time. I wasn’t certain when things definitely started changing but certainly towards the end of her life she experienced quite a few mental health issues. And in what stage in 2010, she was treated at the hospital in the borders. And then about a month before she died things really started getting on top of her and she felt that she wasn’t able to sleep, things were just going round and round. She went to the doctors, she did an interview with the doctor and he felt that she was showing signs of suicide or wanting to take her own life. And he gave her some sleeping tablets and thought that maybe if she could get some sleep that would be it. So that evening she took the sleeping tablets along with some other medication and some alcohol and the next day she called us to say that she’d been very sick. So because of the tablets she’d took I thought it was extremely important that she got to hospital. And she went to hospital and they kept her in for a night and then discharged her the next day. When we went to collect her we couldn’t find anyone to speak to and she came down to us and she wasn’t very well at all. And in fact while she was with us she had a bit of a crisis and we called the hospital and asked for numbers for her GP or for the crisis team and they said that they couldn’t give it to us because those numbers were confidential. So consequently we had to cope and manager her as best we could. She eventually went back to Peebles because she had to have an interview for a job and the following day after her job we thought thankfully she was going to see someone in the mental health team. She did, but unfortunately it was a trainee GP who we felt might not have had the skills that perhaps someone with more experience, given Jaymie’s history, might have had. However, the next day she took her own life.
Reporter – The GP was going away on holiday?
PM – That’s right, the GP had said that she was going to be going away on holiday and that she would discuss Jaymie’s medical situation with her colleagues and I think Jaymie (in the state that she was in) felt, yet again abandoned perhaps. We called her in the morning because she was going to be going up to Edinburgh the next day, we called her after lunch. We called that day and the afternoon and the evening and then we realised that she wasn’t answering her phone. So we thought maybe she’d gone visiting some friends, and we called someone who lived very close to her and had a little café shop near to her. And she went, and the flat was all dark and we managed to get hold of her very close friends who had a key to her flat, and they went in and found her.
Reporter – And how did you feel when she died, and how did you cope with it?
PM – Because of her condition, we sort of always wondered when or if we would get that knock on the door and the knock came. That knock came and the police came in and explained to us that they had found her dead. Which was an initial shock obviously, and I don’t know what it was but everything took over from there, we had to plan her funeral and one thing or another. Fortunately for me, I have got amazing friends in Penrith, very close friends and as I’ve said many times before, Penrith is a remarkable town where people, I think, are very generous, I remember once walking into town and someone just came and gave me a hug and that quite often happens in Penrith. I was lucky in the sense that people were able to talk to me or hug me. But I have heard of other cases, or even in Penrith where people cross the road when they see you coming. But fortunately for me, that didn’t happen and as I said before it’s an interesting thing. I don’t know whether you’ve seen ants carrying a twig or a leaf or something. That’s how I felt like. I felt as if people were carrying me like the ants would carry a leaf. And they’ve done that even up to now, they’ve been extraordinarily supportive and I can’t complain about that at all. So consequently I don’t feel in some ways as if I have suffered the grief that some people talk about. Probably because it hasn’t registered with me because Jaymie was such, she filled a room and you knew when she was about and even when she was gone you still felt that energy. And I don’t know whether it’s my mind sort of protecting me as they say, in order to cope on a daily basis. But I sometimes feel as if someone has taken my arm off. You have to go on, you have to cope without that arm, but you know that arms missing. And that’s how it feels, an imbalance.
Reporter – did you feel there was any difference in how you dealt with it or with how other people dealt with it because of how Jaymie died?
PM – Certainly my relatives at home, I know some of them, aren’t able to talk about that, I don’t know whether that’s all of them but I know some of them do and it’s very much a skirting over it. My friends will talk about it for as long as I will talk about it but I suppose there are some people that would prefer not to. So I think you’ve got to gauge who can or who will talk about it because there are those that perhaps don’t want to talk about it then it’s not something you would force on other people really. But I think it’s getting an awful lot better now that a lot of people are talking much more about it.
Reporter – And how has SOBS helped?
PM – I found the people at SOBS to be warm, welcoming, caring and non-judgmental. We have been two or three or four times and the beauty of sobs is that you don’t have to go every week, you don’t have to speak if you don’t want to speak. It’s interesting listening to other people’s stories because sometimes it helps you to feel as if you’re not alone in what you’re experiencing and because they have been through a similar scenario, they understand what your feelings are and they also do some marvelous cake. It’s nice to know that they’re there and even though we don’t access it every week, you know that you can go and they’ll be someone there to talk about it. SOBS is not for everyone, but it’s there for everyone. There’s some people that perhaps want a one to one and that’s where someone like Cruse comes in. But for people that feel comforted with the group scenario, certainly SOBS is the best thing for them I think.
Reporter – What other support were you getting from other organisations? And what did SOBS do specifically that either you weren’t getting from anywhere else or they just did it in a slightly better way?
PM – Because I don’t think I have come to that situation yet where I feel the grief or feel the pain, I don’t feel for the moment that it’s necessary to access any other group, but certainly SOBS is that comfort, that blanket that you can pull around you when it gets cold, if you need it. It’s just marvelous I think. The people there are just warming, very warm people. Lovely yeah.
Reporter – So what advice would have for someone else who’s maybe going through a similar thing?
PM – I think one of the main things is that they have to talk about it. Talk about anything that’s going through their minds at a certain time. Find a friend, who is willing to share that with you. Talk about it with the GP, with SOBS, with Cruse. It’s not a good thing to bottle up because it’s such an enormous experience or an enormous happening in your life. It’s not something that’s a regular thing that you can just cope with. You need to get it out, it needs to be sorted in your head, I mean luckily for us, we knew why Jaymie got to this situation that she got herself into or what happened to her and why she dies but some people haven’t an idea and they’re left with ‘perhaps I should’ve done that’. And it’s not fair to themselves to suffer that guilt, because in some situations, no matter what they could have done, or did, you know sometimes it bears no relation whatsoever to the fact that person decided to take their own life. They decided to take their own life because, for whatever reason they could perhaps not go through with it anymore. And the thing where people say it’s a selfish thing that they did, that I don’t think at all is a selfish act in the sense that, nobody would want to do that to hurt anybody else and if, for example, they thought about it, maybe they wouldn’t have done it. Because of their state and their mental state, they are unable to see their way through that. They feel that perhaps that’s the only thing they can do. I read something recently that somebody had said and I don’t know whether this is an analogy or what, but it’s either jumping out of the window or being burnt in a burning room. And perhaps that’s the dilemma that they’re left with. So I think people have got to talk and got to see their way through it. And it’s no good pretending that it hasn’t happened and I’ll just carry on with life. You have got to talk about it, whatever the circumstances.
Reporter – That’s interesting then, because that question is something we grapple with whenever someone dies, do you think then the key, to dealing with suicide is, talking to someone about mental health when they’re still alive?
PM – I think, because, before she died she talked at length with us about various problems and we tried to work them through with her and we knew what had caused her problems and why certain things had happened the way that they’d happened. So when you look at what she had in her life at the time, somebody else would of cope with that, but she couldn’t cope with it, because what she had in her life at the time was enormous. So consequently, we were not at all surprised in that sense. What we were surprised about was the way in which she had actually taken her life. And that was the hard thing for us to have to deal with. Because I am also struggling to see whether there can be changes in the mental health situation. Things like trying to get the hospital to make sure friends and families have got those contact numbers, to involve them the care and so on and I’m battling to try and get that, so I guess that’s sort of given me a focus dealing with it. One of the things we were unable to get were Jaymie’s notes from the hospital and we felt that by seeing those notes we would have some understanding to as whether or not they actually got the measure of her illness and therefore whether they actual amount of time they saw her would enable them to understand the nature of her illness but we were told again because of NHS confidentiality they were unable to let us see her notes. So it’s difficult really for us to see it from that perspective. The only way to do that was to go through a solicitor and we didn’t want to do that. I certainly don’t want to feel as if we are blaming anyone, it’s just trying to look at it and see the different angles that people could make changes. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that.