Chris’ ChangeMaker Story

How I became a better friend through using Real Talk

Suicide wasn’t something I’d been directly exposed to until a close friend of mine told me he’d tried to take his own life

Not long after that another friend told me about how he’d planned suicide a few years ago. These are men like me. Friends of the same age and backgrounds. Friends I’d known for years. We’d laughed together, hugged, been close and shared loads of experiences. But this wasn’t something we’d shared until after they’d been close to suiciding.

And I wouldn’t have known.

I’d known they were going through tough times and we had talked about that, but I had no idea that this was something they’d been even contemplating, let alone taking action on. That was a big wake up call for me and I wanted to do something — to learn more, to understand and to do what I could.

Suicide hadn’t been something that had touched my life before then, not as directly as this.

I had quite a few common preconceptions:

  • That suicidal thoughts are something that should only be dealt with by specialist health professionals who know what they are doing.
  • That to think of taking your own life is shameful and selfish.
  • That you shouldn’t talk about it with people at risk of taking their own lives because it might make them more likely to do it.

I knew these were wrong in some way but hadn’t thought about what I should be thinking and saying instead.

For work, I’m a content specialist — meaning I work to help businesses and organisations say the right things to the right people. I know how important thinking the right way and saying the right things can be.

I wanted to change my mindset and be a better friend to the people who needed me 

That’s when I spoke to Grassroots Suicide Prevention about Real Talk. They showed me how to approach the myths and preconceptions I had, and gave me the tools to break these down. Considering 1 in 5 people think about taking their lives and 1 in 15 attempt suicide it seems likely that my two mates are not the only people I’ll speak to who I can help.

The changes I’ve made include:

  • Pushing my friends to open up and release their feelings, especially if I know they’re going through difficult times
  • Listening, without judgement or stigma
  • Not hiding behind euphemisms or shying away from uncomfortable elements of conversation. Being open and direct leads to courage and honesty
  • Responding reassuringly and positively

I was hoping that this advice and guidance would be useful for just my professional life

But, late last year, I was speaking to a mate over some beers about his recent health issues and family problems. The conversation moved on to how he felt isolated and desperate about his situation and that he’d been having thoughts about suicide.

Although I was concerned for him, I felt much more able to give him what he needed — an ear to listen and open, honest observations.

“The training and advice I’d been given has, potentially, saved a good friend’s life.”

Hi my name is Chris, I am Grassroots ChangeMaker, you can learn more about becoming a ChangeMaker here:

ChangeMaker

To learn more about Chris’ work in content and strategy follow on Twitter here.