My daughter’s phone alerted her to a newsflash. ‘Mum, Caroline Flack has died!’ she said. My reaction startled her. We were out eating lunch and I covered my face and said ‘No, oh no that is so shocking. I’m devastated, this should not have happened!’ ‘But why are you so upset Mum?’ She asked. Why, is the question everyone is asking since Caroline’s tragic death. Why did I react that way? Because she didn’t need to die, she was vilified and bullied, and that is simply unjust.
It seems I am not alone in feeling distraught over this. Why is her suicide any different to anyone else’s? It isn’t, but when this happens to a celebrity, it allows society to openly talk about it. So, let’s do just that. The press put celebrities under pressure to be 'perfect', they are applauded for this perfection and the next day denigrated for being human. No one is perfect, we are all human, we should be applauding that!
Beauty aside, Caroline appeared to have so much to live for. She was healthy, talented, successful and loved by all those around her, making her death so much harder to accept and understand.
At my worst, suicidal thoughts were constant and only a heartbeat away, so I can tell you first-hand that when you are in a deep dark hole of despair, you can’t see a way out. The darkness overtakes any past happy memories, present truths or future dreams. Your identity changes and hopelessness takes over. Mental torment is much more painful than any physical pain I’ve experienced and it’s relentless and eats away at you continuously.
Days before her death, Caroline wrote an Instagram:
"I'm so sorry to my family for what I have brought upon them and for what my friends have had to go through.”
I think this shows Caroline really believed she couldn’t go on anymore and she thought she had nothing to live for. She believed everyone would be better off without her in their lives.
Mental disorders are incredibly cruel in this way - making us feel responsible for being ill. Would we apologise for cancer? a broken limb? No, we wouldn’t.
We know that an ambulance was called to Caroline’s road the day before she died to attend to what they describe as ‘an incident which required a clinical assessment’. Following that clinical assessment, the ‘person' was not taken to hospital.
Caroline had confessed that she’d been having some sort of emotional breakdown for some time so was this her desperate cry for help?
I think the NHS reacts to suicide too far down the line. It’s like they are standing on either side of a rushing river waiting for bodies to come along, dragging them out and trying to resuscitate them. They need to be walking up river to see where people are before they jump and helping them before it’s too late.
Suicidal threats are not about attention seeking - it is despair, it is speaking our fears out loud, it is uncomfortable to hear, it is constant, unrelenting, hard work, exhausting. But there is hope and a supporter’s job is to give the sufferer the confidence to feel that they can get better.
The brain is an organ that is changeable, the science is there to prove it — it’s called neuroplasticity - which means we don’t have to suffer forever.
Research suggests that if we suspect someone is having suicidal thoughts - we should be brave enough to ask them the question! Are you having suicidal thoughts, are you thinking of killing yourself? How daunting I know. But it challenges the thought in the person’s head and brings it to light.
Many of Caroline’s celebrity friends have come forward showing their support, sharing their own devastation, saying they would have been there for her. I’m sure they would have been. But what does ‘being there’ really mean? As a sufferer, I hope I can shed some light on this.
In my darkest hour of need, it was minute by minute living, I felt I needed someone with me the entire time ... to make me feel safe, to keep me safe. I lived in a constant state of agitation - constantly asking questions like “what if I don’t get better? Am I going to get better? Am I mad? Why has this happened to me, what have I done?”.
I was drowning, I couldn’t breathe emotionally. My family and friends were my rock, my true reflection. They were my emotional oxygen until I was able to breathe on my own again.
The grim truth of depression and mental health disorders is far from what the lens of social media depicts as life — I sit here writing this and I’m forever thankful I didn’t leap off the metaphorical bridge. Life is a gift, it is to be enjoyed not endured.
By Lisa Owens
If you are feeling depressed & anxious, or know someone who is suffering, please check out our local and upcoming courses. They are 100% free and a wonderful support network for those struggling.