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It’s a Sign of the Times

*** TRIGGER WARNING ***

Talk of suicide

Hi everyone,

I really don’t know how to feel about writing this. Part of me is glad to finally be strong enough to write this blog post, another part of me is feeling overwhelmed with guilt and hypocrisy. I didn’t save her. One of my best friends and housemates took her own life in March 2018 at Durham University.

I blame myself, I blame academic pressure from Durham University, I blame her (our) friends, paramedics, doctors, college, her family. The thing is that IT IS NO ONE’S FAULT. It was a choice, her choice. Those who found her did so quickly. She knew she was loved and popular I really really cannot see this as a reason for the tragedy. There was no note left behind. A friend told me some wise words the other day: “You know she wouldn’t have told us anything since she knew we’d all change her mind”20992692_1636085153076590_5864109681996192665_n

The thing is I was away at the time, on my year abroad. I struggle with this a lot. It has caused me a lot of distress being away from ‘uni home’, if it would have made a difference if I hadn’t gone abroad, if I was there for her in person like in freshers and second year. My recovery through this process of grief is coming to accept that it probably wouldn’t have changed anything. Those who knew her personally understood how stubborn she was once she had an idea in her head. There was no note left behind, so will never know the motives for her actions. And there is no point dwelling on them. It’s not going to change anything or bring her back.

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Uni family. I am on the left, then Alexandra

I’m not the person to spread the close details of the events of 15th march – 18th march 2018. It is not healthy or helpful to spread how and where the suicide happened. If you know, you know and you should be respectful.However, there are things that are positive from her passing which we should focus our attention on instead:

  1. She stuck around enough for us to all say goodbye. ICU is an awful place, but I thank everyone for the work they did trying to save Alexandra, for keeping her breathing so we could all say goodbye.
  2. Alexandra was an organ donor. Her parents gave consent for her organs to be reused by those in need. Alexandra’s death saved 13 lives. 13 people are still in this world because of Alexandra’s kind considerations of others. It’s highly likely that somewhere in the UK, her heart is still beating.
  3. The trust fund. This is an official Durham University/ University College fund that was set up in her memory, for other people. The money raised through this will go towards raising awareness and getting support surrounding suicide at Durham University.image3

At her funeral, the entry music was “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles. Normally I would never ever be seen quoting a member of One Direction but this song now resonates with me. The lyrics are so strong in highlighting the importance of mental health conversations in today’s society. Unfortunately Alexandra’s passing is a sign of the times. It illustrates the academic and social pressures on young people in today’s society and the consequences of it. So from the moment I said my goodbyes and left Bourne, Lincolnshire for the first and last time, I realised that I needed to be one of the voices to speak up and prevent  young suicides from happening again. I don’t want people in the position I was in on 30th April along with hundreds of others. So please, you have the chance, speak about this important stuff and get that conversation started before it’s all too much and too late.

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@positivelypresent on Instagram. These are lyrics from the song

Anyway, the point of this blog is YOU GUYS. I’ve failed spectacularly at looking after my mate, but I’m no way letting it happen to any of you. I cannot even put into words how this feels. I’ve lost other friends in the past to various circumstances, but this is the first suicide I’ve personally had affect me, and it’s completely different. Here are some things that may help point you in the right direction:

  • I’m not just talking about your mates. That corridor “weirdo” you never see is still a mate even if you don’t talk. Make time for them, invite them to things – if they say no at least they can feel included. A mate is also the “clown”, the extrovert, the one who’s “always happy”.
  • How? I know from firsthand experience that any conversation about mental health is better over messages. Send a message, then maybe meet in person for a chat, in a quiet place where you both feel comfortable. Any uni email is searchable by name on Outlook. Use that if there is no other way around it.
  • Chances are 80% of the time people say they’re “fine”, they’re “okay”, “nothing’s the matter”, “just tired”. IT DOESN’T MEAN JUST DISMISS THIS!
  • If it’s been a week and you’re still concerned contact someone a bit more qualified and professional. College Office, chaplain, other pastoral staff at university.
  • If someone is suicidal, or you know of previous attempts, get in touch with our mental health adviser. She’s called Kate, works at the counselling service and you can contact her at mh-advisor@durham.ac.uk This half hour meeting with her and your mate could save many people months of bereavement counselling.
  • If it’s urgent, like serious stuff is happening here – call 999. Even if they haven’t done anything but are in distress.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask someone directly if they’re suicidal. image1

Alexandra had a successful blog on Tumblr (Studying Princess) where she talked about her study tips and successes with others over the internet. It just makes blogging all the more difficult for me as every time I open my blog I just think of her and the waterworks start. Her blog showed off how intelligent and beautiful she was. On June 27th 2018, Alexandra’s parents attended Congregation to collect her degree that had been awarded posthumously. She worked so hard for that moment she never got to experience.

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Alexandra’s degree

If you would like to donate to this fantastic trust fund then this is the link. Even just the smallest of amounts could do wonders. If you can’t donate for whatever reason – please get the word out. Share this link on your social media, in college, in your sports team. Share it with your parents or grandparents. Talk about suicide – there is no shame in it. There is still time for you to save a life.

If you have any questions or queries please don’t hesitate to get in touch! Message the Heads Up team via our Facebook page or email heads.up@durham.ac.uk and we will try our best to help! Also contact us if you are interested in blogging for us. As always, further support links are below. Keep your heads up! Carys.

This blog was written with full permission from Alexandra’s parents.

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