Saturday 10th September is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Preventing suicide is all fine and well, but what everyone really wants to know is ‘how can I prevent my loved ones from succumbing to suicide?’ You want to know that there are unambiguous signs that will alert us to the need to act, and you want to know what action to take when those signs occur. Well there are signs, sometimes. There are things that act as indicators a person is depressed or suicidal that you can make yourself aware of – withdrawal from friends and family, inability to get out of bed or function normally, taking wild and dangerous risks with personal safety, lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, persistent low mood.
So what if you notice these signs? What do you do then? Advice from mental health organisations is don’t be afraid of the topic: ask the person how they are and ask them if they’re thinking of suicide. If they are, ask them how far along their plan they have got – have they thought about how they would end their life? Have they got a plan about when they will do this? Where? Express to them that such thoughts are common in difficult times, but there is help available and things will get better. Vitally, get help – go to hospital with them, or to the doctors, or contact the emergency mental health team in your area. Call mental health charities such as Papyrus or Samaritans who can support you over the phone as you deal with the situation or give you further advice about what to do.
However, there aren’t always nice clear signs there to alert us. Before it happened I did not think Greg was suicidal – it didn’t even enter my mind as a possibility. Yes he was more withdrawn in himself but he was also still socialising frequently. Yes he was clearly sad, but he had just experienced a relationship breakdown and though I was worried for him I wasn’t worried for his survival – I didn’t think his life was under threat. He made the conscious decision to delay the start of his drinking on New Year’s Eve and I took this as a sign that he was looking after himself, being sensible. There were changes in Greg’s behaviour, but no clear indication he was having a severe mental breakdown. I wish he had refused to leave his room or ran into the street naked or broken down on the kitchen floor crying. I wish he had done something so strange and so worrying that it was clear to us, beyond question, that he was unwell. But he didn’t. I never asked Greg if he was thinking of ending his life but I never even considered it something remotely possible. I regret that now more than anything. But the truth is, if your loved one has never suffered from depression, and has in the past appeared to cope well with life’s stresses, suicide will just not be on your mind.
So instead of preparing yourself to ask those close to you whether they are thinking of suicide (something we can all aspire to but which we may be unlikely to do in reality) another way to prevent suicide is to make it easier for people to talk to you – by changing the culture we live in.
Be open about your own mental health struggles and the ways you have coped with them. I don’t mean writing exposes on social media, or making big announcements to friends and family. Do that if you want to, by all means (that’s what I’m doing)! But what we need is a culture where people are able to have conversations in a natural way about the mental health problems they are having. For example: ‘How have you been Kath?’ ‘I’ve been really bad actually – I’ve started antidepressants so we’ll see what they do. But at the moment I feel really down.’ Or: ‘How have you been Kath?’ ‘Not good – I don’t know where it’s come from but I’ve started finding it really difficult to leave the house’. The more you talk about your own mental health problems the more other people will feel able to talk about theirs. The more likely it will then be that someone who feels suicidal discusses that with someone else, which creates the potential of their life being saved.
The Cooking – Posh Sausage Rolls
I wanted to tackle pastry again despite the difficulty I had last time. Practice makes perfect! Besides, I didn’t fancy doing shortcrust pastry again just yet… Sausage rolls require a rough puff pastry, which is apparently nice and easy to make. I used an ‘Apple, Thyme and Pork Sausage Rolls’ recipe from John Whaite Bakes. Sausage rolls are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine – I know they’re cheap and nasty and generally they make me feel worse after eating but they are something I crave, in the same way I crave McDonalds or Burger King. I shouldn’t but I do.
Making the sausage filling is extraordinarily simple. It is also very pleasing to see a selection of perfectly healthy (at least in my eyes) raw ingredients. Meat, herbs, spices and apple get blitzed in a food processor, and the sausage meat is complete!
The pastry actually was easy to make this time, which was a surprise! It’s also something to bear in mind because people are always very impressed at the idea of homemade pastry – so try rough puff! It’s barely any effort at all. It basically requires moulding the flour, butter and water into a ball with your hands, and then a very specific rolling and folding process. If you follow a recipe you shouldn’t get lost.
Roll the sausage meat in squares of pastry, and join with beaten egg mixture. The result was good. Not as pretty as they could have been as I didn’t adequately coat my rolls in egg mixture: ‘They don’t look as good as they taste’ (taster quote). But they did taste very good – no spice or herb was overpowering but all added to a great flavour sausage meat and the pastry was crumbly and buttery.