IT seems counterintuitive to begin an article by advising you not to read it, but I’m about to discuss some pretty serious things, and if you’d rather avoid the topic of suicide for whatever reason, then I’d advise you to turn the page.

To anyone reading this article who struggles with their mental health, know that the person writing it did so at 3am, because I’m actually having a really tough week, and I’m finding it hard to do basic human tasks like eat regularly and sleep.

I know I’m not the only one struggling with mental illness: the widespread mental health crisis that can be observed across this country and many others is a double-edged sword of solidarity. In 2021 alone in Scotland 753 deaths came as a result of suicide.

We are not alone in our pain, but to think of so many others in such a terrible position does little to ease it: there is both strength and sadness in numbers. The statistics are sobering to say the least: a report published by Public Health Scotland on the 6th of September found that over a quarter of deaths in Scottish young people between the ages of 5-25 happen by suicide. This makes suicide the leading cause of death among young people here.

The rhetoric used in a lot of mental health campaigns centres around telling people to reach out, share how they feel, express themselves and make others aware that they are struggling. This is a great first step, but it is just that – the first in what is often an incredibly frustrating battle to access support.

Telling people to simply get help is not enough; we need to ensure the help they need is actually available for them to access. Reaching out a hand only works if there is someone on the other end to pull you up.

There are numerous barriers people face when dealing with mental health issues; a lack of help should not be one of them. Poor mental health comes as a result of many factors, and it is not only direct support which needs to be readily available to ensure we can reduce these statistics. Things such as affordable housing, paying workers a liveable wage, better investment in the public health service and having a robust welfare system all play a key role in suicide prevention.

The relationship between poverty and suicide cannot be denied; Samaritans states that people living in the most deprived areas are 3 times more likely to die by suicide than those in the least deprived. Creating a stable and safe environment within which people can thrive is an essential step in combatting suicide.

While it is most certainly true that money doesn’t buy you happiness, constant stress over not having it can suck the hope from life and exacerbate many mental health issues. How are people supposed to take time to recover, heal and cope with debilitating symptoms when they cannot afford to take time off work for fear of losing everything?

Young people raised in an environment of poverty and financial uncertainty are disproportionately likely to suffer with poor mental health, as can be seen through a recent BMC Public Health study which found that food insecurity increases the risk of anxiety by 257%, and the risk of depression by 253%.

By looking at suicide as an event, and not a series of events that culminate in tragedy, we are doing our young people a disservice. When I went to the doctor and told them I was having suicidal thoughts, I was given a prescription for anti-depressants, a link to a mindfulness website and sent home without any care information or long-term plan.

I asked about accessing therapy, and was told that waiting lists were long and slow moving. The doctor was incredibly sympathetic, but acknowledged the system was underfunded and oversubscribed. I, like many people across the country, was not in the financial position to fund private therapy, and didn’t think I could hold out for 18 months to be seen on the NHS.

The doctor said it was lucky I was a student, as most universities have at least some kind of mental health help. I can genuinely say that without the help and care I received from the support team at uni, I probably wouldn’t be here.

I was given multiple counsellors over the four years of my degree who were able to help me develop a crisis plan to get myself through suicidal episodes: advice I rely on to this day.

In that time, I had friends and family who, although wonderful and supportive, were not qualified to offer the kind of help that a suicidal person requires. Most of them also struggle with their mental health, and all have had similar struggles to access help. I have since graduated and can no longer access this kind of comprehensive mental health support, which has undoubtedly had a negative impact on me. Maybe if I cancel my Netflix subscription, I’ll be able to access private therapy by the time my grandchildren graduate.

Suicide is not a word that should be avoided: the more discussion and dialogue we can have on the subject, the better. If you have young people in your life, creating a safe space for them to discuss their mental health can make all the difference. Reaching out about suicidal thoughts can be incredibly difficult; the desire to avoid worrying people or being perceived as a burden prevents many people, myself included, from making family and friends aware of mental health issues.

Make yourself a safe person to talk to, and try to ensure your support is unconditional and non-judgemental. I understand it can be incredibly uncomfortable and worrying to hear people discussing suicidal thoughts, but I can promise you that the alternative is a kind of silence that is much harder to endure.