Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 in the UKand people with bipolar are 20 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population2. Despite this, suicide prevention is often something that people shy away from. In this post, REACT Supporter and researcher Lizzi recalls one of her toughest moments supporting a friend.

How long did I get there? I am sitting in a psychiatrist's office talking about how to keep my friend alive long enough that he can get better from this terrible depression he is in.

A few days before, I had been talking to my friend on the phone. He was repeatedly hanging up and every time he did that, I thought he had died. That night, after an intervention by police and a fruitless trip to A&E in the early hours, I spent an hour scouring my house for things he could possible hurt himself with. I locked us in the house. It was the only way I could sleep with him in the house.

My friend hadn't been great for a while. He had lost someone close to him and was struggling with many personal issues. He sank into depression. He was also acting strangely and seemed to have trouble getting his thoughts and words straight. At his worst, he was regularly going missing, drinking a lot, and was utterly miserable. It was hard to see, especially the effect it was having on his young family.

I learned very quickly that my friend responded best if I stayed calm and collected. That was pretty hard to do when he was telling me he intended to die. Luckily, as a friend who lived over an hour away, I was able to distance myself a little bit emotionally and focus on what he needed to get better. I'm not sure I could have done that if he had been my father or son. Many families struggle with this every day. How do we keep people here when they are so unwell? How can we do the things we need to do to help recovery when our hearts feel like they're being ripped out of our chests?

Sitting in that psychiatrist's office, we talked about what my friend could do to stay with us while he healed. We talked about what he would do if he had an urge to kill himself. Who could he call? Where could he go that was safe? I later completed a Mental Health First Aid course, which gave me more tools to help and was surprised to see even the professionals on the course were affected by the stigma of suicide.

This stigma surrounding mental health and suicide means that many people don't know what to expect or where to go for help. Fortunately my friend got the help he needed and is now doing well. Not only has he completed a first class degree, he is also in full time work. Recovery is possible but the journey is often tough for everyone involved.

[1] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/suicide

[2] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Suicide/Pages/Causes.aspx

Following her experience, Lizzi got involved in REACT, an online study into the effectiveness of a Relatives' Education and Coping Toolkit with an online Resource Directory for reducing stress and improving wellbeing.

The online toolkit has lots of information on psychosis and bipolar, including strategies for managing common issues and supporting loved ones. Lancaster University are looking for more relatives or close friends of people with psychosis or bipolar to take part in the REACT study.

Find out more and sign up by visiting the REACT website.