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10 September 2012

Suicide survived, living life to the full

by Cathy Wield

It's World Suicide Prevention Day today. Join with me and many professional and simply dedicated individuals who want to help prevent the tragedy of death by suicide.

Although I was working as a doctor in A&E, happily married with four delightful children, I was not immune to the depths of despair that major depression threw me into. I would wake in a world of grey, where no sunlight burst in, alone, isolated by constant punitive thoughts telling me that I was a terrible person, a terrible doctor, a terrible Christian. I soon had to take sick leave as I had no strength or energy, I could not concentrate, I felt so tired but could not sleep; hunger left me and I hardly ate. Then the thoughts became more sinister – Phil my husband would be better off without me, I didn't deserve to live, in my desperation I made plans to die. I managed to share how I felt with a trusted friend and so I came to be admitted to hospital, where for four of the next seven years I was to spend time being treated for severe treatment resistant depression.

Some of our close friends and family remained in touch; they helped us practically and were faithful in prayer. Others could not cope and I heard not a word, their silence being interpreted that I was as I thought an untouchable, a leper. For some I became the object of well-meaning advice. Why didn't I pray more? If only I was to come closer to God, read my Bible more, confess my sin... then that would be the key to my recovery.After all, true Christians don't become depressed!

But from others, even those who did not know me well, gifts and cards and prayers came my way. They warmed my heart which felt like stone, they helped me see a little chink of light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel.

I survived my ordeal and suicide attempts though I live with the consequences, but once again there is much joy in my life. I wrote A thorn in my mind as a result of the stigma and rejection of mental illness within our churches, to explain the truth that these conditions are as ancient as history and that biblical characters as well as many famous Christians have suffered from depression. I tell my story as I grew spiritually through this illness and provide descriptions and treatments of most of the common disorders which are known as mental illnesses.

I was not expected to live, let alone return to work, yet I did both these things. Now finally I have retired from being a doctor, after a six-month hospital spell when I had a relapse of my condition. But as I slowly became well again, I knew increasing freedom in God my Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now it is time for a different sort of life; one to tell the world: "There is no despair that has absolutely no hope." The tragedy of suicide must be prevented and we, as Christians, can be frontrunners in the race. I had family and friends, but some sufferers with suicidal thoughts and ideas are alone and isolated. Not everyone is ill, some are just in total despair but all need to know that there are people around who care.

Our goal is to accept people however they are and provide them with hope - well or sick, able-bodied or disabled, mentally well or mentally ill, Christians or non-Christians. This is our mission as we know God's love, to love one another and to love the world as He does.

For help and advice, contact Samaritans.

Cathy and her husband Phil, a counsellor who trained at the London School of Theology in counselling, run workshops on depression for churches and other organisations. Email them to find out more. info@eauk.org

A thorn in my mind by Cathy Wield is available in Kindle or paperback through Amazon.