“My fear is we are creating a society no one wants; neither those feeling the benefits of prosperity nor those bearing the scars of austerity.”
This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 21/10/2019 [Online], Available: https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/ewan-gurr-desperate-circumstances-result-in-suicidal-thoughts/ [Accessed: 2019, Oct 22]
I remember the first time I ever contemplated suicide. It was 2011, I was going through a turbulent time with my employer and, reflecting back, I am thankful that I did not act upon the variety of brutal scenarios playing out in the dark corridors of my mind. Suicide statistics released earlier this year revealed that, of those who succeeded in taking their lives, 73% were men and 47% were in my particular age bracket. New figures released last week also highlighted that Scotland has the highest UK suicide rate. Therefore, if suicide had a target audience, I would tick all the boxes.
The second week of October is Mental Health Awareness Week and, as it drew to a close, I spoke to a lady called Nicola about her journey with mental ill health. Nicola, 39, is a single mum after separating from an abusive partner. Four of her five children live with her and her eldest daughter, who is 20 years old, stays a 40 minute train journey away with her aunt due the over-occupancy of their current home. At her absolute lowest point, Nicola attempted to take her life by strangling herself with a belt buckle while her children slept.
She traces the deterioration in her mental health to her mid-twenties and the abusive relationship she was in at the time. Her then partner stole from her, cheated on her multiple times and prevented her access to money. On one occasion, he also locked her and their children in the home. When Social Services were called and came out, Nicola was unable to let them in because he had left with the house key. At this point, she was prescribed anti-depressants and was later sectioned twice and subjected to electric shock therapy, which resulted in partial memory loss and headaches which she still experiences.
The biggest barrier to her mental resilience currently relates to Universal Credit. Nicola says: “When I go to the job centre, I go in shaking and sweating and then I have security guards who treat me like a criminal.” Each month, she has £350 deducted from her benefit payment due to repaying part of the advance she received during the five week wait, repaying an administrative overpayment of Child Tax Credits she was unaware of and, finally, a deduction because of the benefit cap, which only covers the cost of two children unless you have had another as a result of rape. In addition to this, Nicola also has £7,000 worth of outstanding debt.
Nicola has been let down by every individual and institution in whom her wellbeing has ever been placed and my fear is we are creating a society no one wants; neither those feeling the benefits of prosperity nor those bearing the scars of austerity. But it is the latter section of society whose security we are all morally responsible for.