Who is Alice?
Many of you of a certain age will have added an additional word in that title and now be singing an inappropriate song for an Ambulance Service Blog. However, that hopefully means I have your attention as I have a really serious matter to discuss with you.
Let me start by telling you about ‘my’ Alice. Alice was a hardworking, strong, loved wife and mother. Living in the 1940’s there were lots of difficult times, but Alice always seemed ‘on top of things’ organised, caring, a great cook and always looking after everyone.
Alice is my Great Grandmother.
I recently discovered that Alice committed suicide by throwing herself down the stairs. Back then committing suicide was seen as a crime and due to the nature of her death she was not permitted a funeral and was buried in un-consecrated ground. This is sad on so many levels, a young woman with small children taking her own life in such a way, what was she going through to see that as the only way out and why would we further punish someone who has given themselves the worst possible punishment?
I am pleased that our society has developed we no longer see suicide as a crime. We now see suicide as something that those suffering severe mental health problems turn to when they feel there is no other option, but we still have so much to learn and understand. For some turning to suicide may be a spur of the moment reaction to something but for many it will be the result of a long period of suffering of which they see no end. For whatever reason people end up considering suicide, we need to look for ways to help those suffering sooner. Already the biggest cause of death in men under 50 suicide rates are still on the increase in the UK.
I’d like to take you back to the stairs; if someone has a mechanical fall down the stairs they would think nothing of phoning for help with any injuries sustained. As a paramedic I have been to various trips, slips and falls involving staircases and not one person thought anything about calling for help. They were hurt and needed treatment.
I think we can view people as mentally falling down the stairs too, however rather than the quick trip or slip this is a more gradual decline down the stairs over time. Those who mentally fall down the stairs are as much in as need of medical support as those who do mechanically. Standing at the top of the stairs represents us in good mental health and the bottom of the stairs poor mental health; we need to watch for our colleagues, friends and family to help them up the stairs when they need a hand. We might all slip down a step or two every now and again. A bad job at work or stressful time with finances can make us all dig deep mentally, however we need to recognise this and use resources around us to prevent ourselves from slipping further down the stairs. But it is also important to know that if you do slip all the way to the bottom of the stairs, that is not the end, there is still a floor to stand on and there are still people to help and ways to get back up.
It might seem trivial after slipping one or two steps down to seek help or support but don’t wait until you are 5 or 6 steps down and really struggling because by then everything will seem harder. If your car was running low on fuel you wouldn’t wait until it was completely empty and risk running out before you refilled it, you would top up when passing the garage. It is the same with your mental health don’t wait until there is nothing left in the tank, refill it when you can. You can refill by talking to friends or family, debriefing after difficult jobs with your colleagues, you could utilise the tools on the wellbeing webpage at or by contacting the Samaritans on 116 123 or https://www.samaritans.org. However you choose your refill, take the time to do it and give yourself the fuel to climb to the top of the stairs.
I will finish by asking you to look at your friends, family and colleagues and ask yourself……. Who could be my Alice? Just because someone appears to be on top of things and OK don’t assume, don’t judge, treat everyone with kindness, respect and warmth and hopefully your Alice will feel comfortable enough with you to accept help and support.
24th July is Samaritans Day, but you can call them anytime night or day with any worry whether you feel it big or small. The Samaritans number is 116 123.