Content warning: suicide, suicide bereavement, stigma around suicide, grief
All staff in our Suicide Bereavement Services have lived experience of someone in their lives dying by suicide. This allows them to deliver the compassionate and practical support that we are known for.
We hope that by sharing stories, we can make those who have been bereaved by or affected by someone taking their own life feel less alone. We also aim to educate those who have not been impacted around how losing someone to suicide differs from other experiences of loss. Overall, we hope this will continue to break down the stigma that still exists around deaths by suicide.
Here, Rebekah Marshall, one of our Postvention Practitioners, shares how lived experience peer support helped her to combat the loneliness and isolation that often comes after a bereavement by suicide.
From my brother’s death to his funeral was a total of 32 days.
It was often like a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute I was devastated, then I was angry. I felt guilty and to blame as I should have realised something was wrong…and then the rollercoaster would go round again.
All the shock and the unanswered questions as to what happened, why it happened, what caused it to happen…
Not only did this continue in the long month between his death and his funeral, but it persisted through the lengthy process that followed. We had to wait just short of 4 months for the inquest. Time dragged on. It was very isolating. People appeared to struggle to know what to say* or do…so they didn’t say anything.
Visits to the GP made me feel worse. I was told “how you’re feeling is normal” but wasn’t given any guidance on what to do or where to go next. They were quick to prescribe anti-depressants. I felt it would help more to have someone to talk to, but the people around me didn’t seem to understand how I was feeling or what I had been through.
Since then, I found Leeds Mind’s West Yorkshire Suicide Bereavement Team in 2019. Through Leeds Mind, I did 6 weeks of peer support. It was so beneficial to have someone to talk to who had lived experience of losing someone to suicide. As the team said: “we get it because we’ve been there”.
I have learnt more about suicide and mental health whilst doing online courses at home to try and gain a better understanding and knowledge about mental health in general. In October 2022 I joined the Leeds Mind Suicide Bereavement Service team to help and support other people who have been through what I have.
Support like this feels more important than ever now. The four months we waited for the inquest felt like hell, but I know some people are waiting even longer now due to post-pandemic delays. Since I know what a lonely place that can be, I’m glad to be part of a team able to use our experiences to help people through this time.
*We always recommend ‘Finding the Words’ from the Support After Suicide Partnership for people who want to offer support by someone affected by suicide.
Huge thank you to Rebekah for sharing her experience.
If you have been affected by suicide, please consider accessing our Suicide Bereavement Services. You can find more information on the service here: https://www.leedsmind.org.uk/suicide-bereavement-services-west-yorkshire/
We also have a grief and loss support line, which you can call for free on 0800 196 3833 (8am – 8pm, 7 days a week). For more info, please visit: https://www.griefandlosswyh.co.uk
You can find more information and advice around losing someone to suicide on Mind’s website.