This week news broke of the death of Keith Flint – a musician whose group’s innovative mix of hardcore dance and punk angst filled my teenage years. The thing that hit me hardest was not the fact he had passed away, but the the fact he had taken his own life.
As a result of this, I want to talk about anxiety, depression and suicide, as it’s a very important subject. Crucial and still taboo. It’s something we need to take time and courage to talk about. I know that, as a man, I’m supposed to just suck it up, “man up” and whatever other ridiculous phrase people want to use. This attitude is one of the reasons that so many men are tragically feeling that their only option is suicide.
This is a very dark subject and one that we really need to start discussing, rather than brushing it under the carpet and pretending it doesn’t happen. The fact is that suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged between 20-49. This is all males, not just autistic males, but in newly diagnosed autistic adults, over 60% reporting contemplating taking their own life.
There are many reasons why people get to this stage in their lives. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been to that place. I’m a suicide survivor and, as such, I know what it’s like to get to the point where it seems like death is the only option. This was many years before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and, long story short, I was about to lose the roof over my head. I’m sure that no one really needs to know the ins and outs, but the fact is that, as a bloke, I felt that I couldn’t talk to my mates about it. I thought that people would think me weak, strange, or that they’d just walk away from me. I did attempt, but thankfully survived. Just.
Below are some of the issues (not all) that can lead to suicide.
It’s estimated that 20% of people will experience some form of depression at one point or another. Often, people who suffer from depression have difficulty in sharing their thoughts and feelings. This can be even harder for people like me, on the autism spectrum, as we can have difficulty in labelling, understanding and communicating our feelings.
This is a particularly common theme among people on the autism spectrum. It’s believed that 40% of autistic people suffer or have suffered from at least one form of anxiety disorder or another.
For me, things that a neurotypical person might take for granted can be a problem: answering a phone-call, or going to places like the supermarket and doctors, etc, can fill a person with autism with an almost crippling feeling of anxiety.
Here are some warning signs that a person may be at risk of suicide:
- Excessive sadness or moodiness: Long-lasting sadness and mood swings can be symptoms of depression, a major risk factor for suicide.
- Sudden calmness: Suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness can be a sign that the person has made a decision to end his or her life.
- Withdrawal: Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities also are possible symptoms of depression. This includes the loss of interest or pleasure in activities the person previously enjoyed.
- Changes in personality and/or appearance: A person who is considering suicide might exhibit a change in attitude or behavior, such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance.
- Dangerous or self-harming behavior: Potentially dangerous behavior, such as reckless driving, engaging in unsafe sex, and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol might indicate that the person no longer values their life.
- Recent trauma or life crisis: A major life crisis might trigger a suicide attempt. Crises include the death of a loved one or pet, divorce or break-up of a relationship, diagnosis of a major illness, chronic pain, loss of a job, or serious financial problems.
- Making preparations: Often, a person considering suicide will begin to put his or her personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will, and cleaning up his or her room or home. Some people will write a note before committing suicide.
- Threatening suicide: Not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it. However, every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.
If you are feeling like you’re out of options please talk to someone. If you feel unable to talk to a friend, or your doctor, the Samaritans can help. If you don’t want to talk out loud, they will text you instead.
Call: 116 123
E mail: Jo@samaritans.org