‘Staring into the abyss’ - why I believe in our teenage suicide campaign by Herts Advertiser editor

Something to Talk About...

Something to Talk About... - Credit: Archant

Launched earlier this month, the Herts Advertiser’s Something to Talk About... campaign aims to break through the taboos surrounding teen suicide and help a foundation set up to provide specialist suicide intervention training skills in schools and colleges across the county.

Crisis on Infinite Earths #1

Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 - Credit: Archant

The OLLIE (One Life Lost Is Enough) Foundation was set up by Stuart Falconer, whose 15-year-old son Morgan took his own life, with the target of raising £30,000 to fund four trainers versed in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) to schools and colleges across Herts.

ASIST trainers will help teachers to become better at recognising people at risk of suicide, because, like many victims, Morgan’s suicidal thoughts were not on anyone’s radar.

The Something to Talk About... campaign wants to bring the subject of teenage suicide into the mainstream and become a subject of discussion for people of all ages. This week Herts Advertiser editor Matt Adams writes candidly about his own troubled teenage years, and why he believes so passionately in what the campaign is trying to achieve.

Comics saved my life.

Growing up as a teenager in Essex during the 1980s, ground down by relentless bullying and emotional torture inflicted by my peers at school, and with a mother who took pleasure in belittling others to raise her sense of self-importance, I had few avenues to turn to for support.

After being daily targeted by boys who saw nothing wrong with the physical and psychological abuse of a fellow pupil, escaping from the misery of life seemed the only way of ending this regime of pain.

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I don’t think I would have used the word “suicide”, but I knew I wanted my misery to end, and that extreme option seemed the only logical way of doing so. I probably showed few outward signs to my family and what friends I had, and you just didn’t talk about your “feelings” back then, so it would have likely been a decision taken and executed without any warning.

There were no obvious channels to seek support or advice, ChildLine was still a year or so away from being established, and the Samaritans really weren’t targeted at teenagers.

To paraphrase Nietzsche, I stared so long into the abyss that the abyss began to stare back at me, and letting myself fall into the darkness just seemed such an easy answer.

Salvation came in an unexpected form: a 12-part comic series which actually offered me a future. Crisis on Infinite Earths, published by DC Comics to mark their 50th anniversary in 1985, was an epic storyline which promised to completely change the publisher’s universe, and was completely unlike anything that I had seen before.

With an issue released each month, the resolution seemed a lifetime away, and for my 14 year-old self, it probably was.

I needed to know how this storyline played out, I was engrossed in the developments revealed in each new edition, and instead of focusing on the immediacy of my daily struggles, I began to look further ahead into the future.

It was the distant milestone of the series’ conclusion which actually gave me a reason to carry on, to hope that things would eventually change and to find the resolve to battle on until they did so. It could so easily have gone in another direction, but I guess I was one of the lucky ones.

Because as these things have a habit of doing, eventually my suffering came to an end.

The bullies who had tormented me for months turned towards new targets, fresh opportunities presented themselves outside school as I experienced my first nervous encounters with the opposite sex, and although my mother’s attitude never really changed, it began to have less of an impact on my maturing psyche.

I am speaking out about these experiences now because I don’t want anyone else to find themselves in the position where their options are so crushingly limited, but also because I believe I am now in a position where I can make a difference to other young people going through traumas similar to those I endured.

The Herts Advertiser’s Something to Talk About… campaign wants to encourage teenagers, parents and teachers to openly discuss the issue of teenage suicide, because pretending not talking about it means it won’t happen is not just naïve, it could cost someone their life.

If you would like to help the OLLIE Foundation reach its target by attending an event or organising one click here.