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Time to Talk Day: A call to arms

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This blog post contains content that some readers may find distressing. 

If you’re in a crisis right now, it’s not too late.

Get help now.

Samaritans report that more than 6,000 people across the UK and ROI take their own lives each year. Tens of thousands more attempt suicide. The numbers scare me.

One suicide is one too many. One suicide is a failure of the rest of humanity. We must do better, we must start now, and we can start with the simple act of talking.

It will not fix the whole problem, but it’s the best place to start.

If you’re struggling right now, talk to someone. People want to help you. I know it’s hard to talk about how you feel, but please do not be afraid. I strongly believe that once you ask for help, it’ll come, and it’ll be powerful. And you’ll see and feel the love of this world once again.

If you know someone who is struggling right now, ask them how they’re feeling, ask them how you can help. Then ask them again. And again. There is no problem in this world too great that together we cannot solve.

We just need to start talking about it all.

My story

I recently started talking to my colleagues about my mental health and I’m so glad that I did. It was difficult at first, but they made me feel safe and gradually I started talking. Now I can talk about my PTSD openly.

Here’s an extract from a recent blog post I shared with my colleagues.

“Where are you now? What’s going on?” she asks.

“I need help. I need to get help now.” The words are reluctant to leave my mouth. I force them out with every ounce of strength I have left.

My limbs are so heavy they feel like lead or stone. Using my hands, I pick up my right leg and drag it, so my foot is on the accelerator. I do the same with my left, placing it between the brake and the clutch, and a few minutes later I find myself back on the road moving at speed.

The world outside whizzes by, spinning in a huge circle around my head. Before hanging up on the phone to my wife, I ask her to call my mum and inform her that I’m on my way and that I need help.

Another flash and somehow, I’m standing outside the door of my mum’s house, shivering and incoherent.

The next thing I remember I’m on a bed in the triage area of a large hospital. My eyes hurt and I cannot open them fully. It’s noisy and I can hear people in pain and discomfort. I’m thirsty and tired. My head spins again, and I fall asleep.

Gaining clarity

Looking back on that day, there are so many questions that I repeatedly ask myself. Not all of them are healthy, but I cannot deny that I often wonder how things could be so different.

At that moment in time, the reasons I had for living seemed much fewer than the reasons I had for dying.

Realising this error took time.

Given the clarity gained over the past year, I can say that the day that I had planned to be my last on this earth, quickly became my first.

I was ignorant of how PTSD affected me. I thought that I had seen most of everything and that over time I had developed some kind of resistance or conditioning against harm. How wrong I was.

I learned that crisis can affect us all, directly or indirectly, and to varying degrees. Alone, there is very little we can do to protect against an overwhelming defeat, but together nothing can beat us.

What defines us as humans is not what we do at times of crisis, because we can all fail. What defines us as humans is what we do from the point of crisis onwards, because we can all succeed. What defines us as humans is our ability to love each other.

A rocky hilltop almost covered by mist.
The mountain in mist was from one of my many walks in the Brecon Beacons, this one taken in March last year. I find solace in nature, even when the weather is bad, and walking on the hills reminds me that even if the path is difficult and you cannot see clearly in front of you, if you keep going you'll make it to the top.

A call to arms

I did not write my blog post as some form of catharsis. I’m not sharing it to gain sympathy or applause. This is a call to arms. This is my declaration of war against suicide.

Who’ll fight alongside me? If you’re ready to take this mental health crisis on and defeat it, let’s do it, let’s go.

Stand up and talk about mental health, make it part of the conversation. Make your workplace a safe place for mental health so that people can feel comfortable to talk.

To all who have helped and supported me this past year - my wife and my daughters, my mum and my brothers, my colleagues and my employer, and every doctor, nurse and therapist - thank you, I owe you my life.

If you need help, go to a medical aid point - hospital, clinic, doctor’s surgery, pharmacist. Go to the police station, the fire station. Call 999/911/012 or your local emergency number. Go to a friend, a parent, a sibling, a colleague, a stranger.

Go to one of the many charities, such as Samaritans, that are there to help.

Please do not forget that many sources of help are run by volunteers. Please support mental health charities. Their work is vital, and they save lives, but they need donations and other kinds of support in order to keep providing their invaluable services.

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  1. Comment by Michelle Wall posted on

    Wow Tom what a powerful blog. I am so proud to say I work in an organisation which makes it safe for you to be open about exactly how you are feeling and be supportive of your ongoing recovery. I am also so proud of you too - keeping talking to us!

  2. Comment by Shirley Naftel posted on

    Thanks for sharing your truly inspiring message, Tom. Wishing you all the very best in your continued recovery. Keep talking - and keep walking, one step at a time.

  3. Comment by Arabella Tresilian posted on

    Thank you for this moving and powerful blog! Thank you for using your experiences to inform, educate and inspire others about this vital topic - especially here, on this platform. I am grateful to you. I'll join you in your call to arms!

  4. Comment by Jazz Rasool posted on

    I resonate with the mist and the walks in nature even when things are bleak, something I did walking up Ben Nevis on a foggy, wet day many years ago. I connected to what gives me life, a silence that brings me alive.

    I tried to commit suicide when I was 6 years old. My father had PTSD and it played out into violence against me and my mother. At one point I could take no more, I didn't feel alive, I felt like I was dying more each day so what difference would it make if I just killed myself? Something in me didn't let me go all the way.

    I now live to bring life to others helping people gain skills for more rewarding work or service and just did my first TEDx talk. I talked on 'Mental Diversity and Inclusion' and how important it is for Creativity that fosters Innovation for business, industry, a strong economy as well as social transformations that have positive impact on humanity.