A good friend of mine took his life by suicide around 8 years ago. I remember when I received the call from another friend. The day is etched in my mind. It was a sunny June day and I was sitting on my bed with the window open. There was a pause at the beginning of the call followed by the dreaded words: “I have some bad news.” To this day, I still worry when someone calls me out-of-the-blue or if there is a hesitation at the start of the call.
Straight after that phone call, I experienced feelings of confusion, blame and guilt. My dear friend had just finished university with me. He was charming, funny, intelligent and spontaneous and had bagged himself a great solicitor job in Liverpool. I had only seen him 10 days earlier at a house party where he was happy, dancing and telling me about his summer plans.
After the party, I remember thinking ‘I must invite him out for coffee’ but then of course life takes over and we never did meet. This is when the ‘what if’ question pops up. “What if we had met up?” “What if I had reached out?” “What if I noticed the warning signs?” I find these questions inescapable, even now 8 years later.
Once the news had settled, my group of friends pulled together and this is what got a lot of us though it. We met up more frequently, we talked about him openly, we discussed suicide without shying away from it. It was never shameful topic.
We kept, and continue to keep, his memory alive through celebration days, annual meet ups, fundraising and staying in touch with his family. Keeping alive his memory is the best healing remedy for me.
To mark World Suicide Prevention Day I want to share this poem written by Caroline Pepper for her friend who sadly passed in 2018.
Partners in Crime
“We were partners in crime why did you have to die
I wish I had read your mind, and to yourself you’d been kind.
You would never see yourself the way we saw you;
thoughtful, generous in all that you do.
You filled my world with colour, now my imagination I must muster
to see a future without you in it, yet I think about every minute.
I just hope you realised, how much I cared;
how I treasured every moment that we shared.
If I’d known that I would never see you again;
I’d have told you I love you and that I need you my friend.
But I know that you were not in the right state of mind, and that you could no longer continue in this world or time. I hope that you can finally settle and be at peace
It kills me to say, but if that’s what you need;
Sophie Spooner, you’re my forever friend and you’ll stay with me bud until the very end."
Second Step is launching a new HOPE project in October to reduce suicides in the Bristol area. Hope stands for help for people with money, employment or benefit problems and is a research project with a three part focus – middle aged men, students and helping raise awareness of suicide. Find out more here.