Suicide, depression (and any other mental health condition to be honest) is an issue very close to my heart. I’ve had issues in the past with it, along with some family and friends also suffering. It was a no brainer to write about this issue in relation to suicide forums for the uni newspaper. But how am I supposed to re-write this in my sassy, informal style? It’s not exactly a light hearted topic I can joke about. Here is my attempt anyway –
A mother has blamed suicide forums for her daughter’s death, claiming that the NHS is failing in light of these forums. Of course, it’s impossible to ever know if her daughter would still be here in the absence of the forums. Despite this, it’s still important to investigate the potential impacts of engaging in such websites.
When you feel like you’re at one of your shittiest points, you might turn to someone who will allow you to slip further into your mental illness. It’s comforting to speak to someone who you can relate to, however, ‘comforting’ does not necessarily mean it’s healthy. Callie, the daughter, accessed information on how to end her life through the forum, in which she eventually used to commit suicide. She also received tips on how to hide her mental health issues from medical professionals. Perhaps, if the suicide victim had the opportunity to talk to a professional online, rather than someone with similar issues, she may not have chosen to take her own life.
The danger of using these forums does not only apply to people with depression or suicidal thoughts. Pro ana forums are also widely accessible, which encourage sufferers to allow their condition to take control of them, instead of encouragement to overcome their illness. For instance, if a person cannot stop eating, or is struggling to avoid eating, they may seek help from others who are also not mentally healthy and are having similar thoughts. ‘Thinspiration’, diets, exercise routines, and appetite suppressants are recommended on the majority of the forums. Therefore, they provide help in support of the mental health condition, rather than providing help to tackle it. This can be very dangerous and make it even more difficult to begin recovery. The comments made can also trigger relapses – the people making these comments typically believe they are being helpful, when in reality, they are oblivious to the damage they are causing.
When a person seeks help from a forum, they are likely in a very vulnerable position. We need a system put in place, where online searches for these potentially life-threatening forums, result in only official and approved websites, that can guarantee the correct standard of care that mental health sufferers deserve.
It’s widely agreed that the NHS needs a substantial amount of extra funding for their mental health services (Boris, mate, are you reading this??). Although the current services available have benefitted numerous patients, other mental health sufferers have needed extra care. Perhaps, if forums had higher regulation to ensure that only comments with a positive impact were allowed, they would become a much safer environment to seek help. To put it politely, I can’t say I’m a fan of Boris Johnson. Can I imagine him, with his shite hair, hearing about stories like Callie’s, and feeling any form of motivation to change things? Absolutely fucking not. We can only live in hope that positive changes are just around the corner.
Luckily, whilst we sit on our arses waiting for the c*** to care, there are various alternative options to make use of when you need advice or support. These options include but are not limited to;
- Emailing your university’s welfare service (if your uni doesn’t have one then fuck, please change your university)
- Contacting your GP and asking for an emergency appointment
- Contact your GPS out-of-hours number
- Call 111
- Call the Samaritans on 116 123 for their 24-hour free service
- Go to your local NHS walk in centre (if you’re anything like me, you’ll know the route off by heart from all the UTIs you’ve gotten in the past)
These services are all organised by trained volunteers or professionals – a much safer option than a forum. Also a much safer option than consulting me; I think my only method of cheering someone up would be to graphically describe how I love avocado on toast, or what Oreo brownies taste like. Not ideal when you’re feeling down. I can give you some ideas of what to do though, if you’re not in an urgent situation and just need cheering up:
- Go to your local Pets At Home or rescue shelter and just watch the animals for a bit (don’t go too often though otherwise you’ll end up spontaneously adopting a gerbil)
- Bake a peng ass cake with a friend/family member
- Go to a gym class with someone who is nutty enough to go to a gym class
- Have a movie night with someone (don’t do it alone)
- Don’t be afraid to cancel plans if you just need to stay in
- Go online and research holidays you could do (even if you don’t have the funds, it’s fun to pretend)
- Do something you wouldn’t usually do, e.g. treat yourself, spend £40 on eyelash extensions, adopt a gerbil without really thinking it through, dye your hair, sign up to do something really random
Whatever you do, just don’t seek help from a shitty forum. Whatever mental illness you may be fighting right now, know that I think you’re a fucking boss. Battling any illness is like a marathon: it’s fucking long. Along the way, you might need to stop for a breath, take a piss, suck on some energy gels, down a pint of water, listen to some tunes, lean on someone else for support, crawl up the steep inclines and maybe even get diarrhoea (runners’ stomach is a bitch). But the point is, you get there in the end and you come out stronger than ever (unless you’re doing an actual marathon, then you can’t walk for 3 days hehe). I think I’ll stop the metaphor here before I take it too far.
For more information on how forums can be dangerous, you can watch the documentary, Failed by the NHS: Callie’s Story on BBC iPlayer.