• Our Encounters with Suicide

Our Encounters with Suicide

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ISBN 978 1 906254 62 9
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The ‘Our Encounters with…’ series collect together unmediated, unsanitised narratives by service-users, past service-users and carers and survivors. These stories of direct experience will be of great benefit to those interested in narrative enquiry, and to those studying and practising in the field of mental health.

The collection brings together a range of voices on the theme of suicide — those who have been suicidal, alongside the friends, family and staff who have lived and worked with them.  Too often the rhetoric of ‘suicidology’ is occupied only by those who have never had personal experience of suicidality. The first-person voice is strangely absent.  These frank accounts go some way to correcting the balance. 

We hope that these narratives will be helpful for people who may have had similar encounters, or are harbouring future suicidal intentions, and for those who care for them personally or professionally; that readers can use the stories in the book to make better sense of their own experiences and decisions. Ultimately we hope that the book will facilitate a more empathic understanding of the experiences of others generally, and of people who were close to and have been lost to suicide.

Forewords Professor Gillian Bendelow Dr Katherine Johnson
1. Introduction Alec Grant, Judith Haire, Brendan Stone
Witnessing suicide
2. Violent impact Karl Davis
Living in the wake of suicide
3. Pamela Pamela Kirk
4. Philippa Philippa Brook
5. A lesson learned all too well, perhaps? Stacey Autote
6. From sisterhood to suicide: The story of a suicide loss Cath Walsh
7. Untitled Catherine Carley
8. Gone but not forgotten Georgina Smith
9. Untitled Alex 
10. Suicidal wisdom Jayne Stewart
11. Pepe Karen McDonald 
12. Living on the edge Abigal Muchecheti
13. The other half Jo Rhodes
14. D Gilly Graham
15. A lifetime changed in a moment Neil Ritchie
16. Self-portrait Lost Soul
Thinking suicide
17. My father’s war Sid Prise
18. Choosing to be Ruth Kilner
19. The ultimate barrier – for all those who never made it back Tessa Glaze
20. Semi-suicidal Helen Harrop
21. Untitled Naomi
Surviving suicide
22. Suicide – my story Anonymous
23. The secrets of suicide Dawn Willis
24. The suicide note is not my story (or the suicide note does not play my song) Dolly Sen
25. Phoenix to ashes Madame de Merteuil
26. The day I went to the meadow Felicity Stennett
27. ‘Con Hearse’ Kathryn Ann Littlewood
28. ‘The silence of suicide’ Michael Skinner
Defending suicide
29. In defense of suicide Kathryn Rosenfeld
30. A red sadness: My dad’s story Chrissie Hinde
31. An epilogue: Suicide and sense making Alec Grant
Appendix 1: Maytree: A sanctuary for the suicidal
Appendix 2: Useful links and contacts
Editors and contributors

If like me you've ever felt so bad about yourself that you thought the ony solution was to take your life, then this book is ultimately a very liberating read, if at times a hard one. If you work with people have suicidal feelings, then I think it's essential reading. Terry Simpson, Your Voice magazine, Autumn 2014.

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the book. I went through a roller coaster of emotions reading it. I myself have never attempted suicide but have been hospitalised twice on "suicide watch" as the desire to take my own life was so intense and overwhelming. I have spent my whole life, since the age of 11, suffering with suicidal ideation as a result of abuse and trauma. My 25 year career as a teacher ended with my being retired on the grounds of mental ill health. Needless to say I became even more suicidal as feelings of worthlessness overwhelmed me. I could relate to so many of the narratives in the book. I was initially a little wary of reading it for fear it might trigger unwanted memories or emotions but it had the opposite effect. I actually speak about my experiences of mental ill health and my own encounters with suicide at various universities and conferences. There is such a need for suicide to cease to be such a taboo subject, I am hoping your book will go some way to achieving that. I shall be recommending it to the students I teach and the mental health providers I deal with. Trish Stoll

Our Encounters with Suicide is a book which should be compulsory reading for anyone who comes into contact with people who have been affected by suicide.  These personal stories told with such inspiring honesty and deep sense of humanity enlighten some very difficult issues. They hold out some powerful truths which we all should listen to in how we live our lives personally and professionally. Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness

This deeply moving and provocative book gives voice to one of society’s ancient and contemporary least understood enigmas. For the reader the stories captured within this volume highlight the strength and endurance of the human spirit in the face of both existential and neurotic suffering. These expert narratives teach us that true experiential knowledge is gained in the swampy low-lands and understood through reflection in and on action. This book speaks to anyone who considers themselves to be engaged in the act of becoming human. We rise by that from which we fall. Dawn Freshwater, Professor of Mental Health and Psychotherapist

I found the range and uniqueness of the encounters compelling, vivid and moving, the authentic voice of the author being preserved and most importantly valued for the important insights it could offer the reader …  The book is expansive in its ambitions in that it also touches on broad-based themes of stigma, social exclusion and societal taboos, as well as contextually sensitive understanding of suicide that explore the negative impact on authors who were exposed to external judgement, blame and manipulation … Our Encounters with Suicide is a book that must be recommended reading for social workers and students interested or working in the field of mental health, or indeed anyone who is interested in what it means to be human. Caroline Leah, Lecturer in Applied Mental Health, University of Manchester

This book is a comprehensive collection of thoughts from people who have been affected by suicide. The contributions are not limited to the families and loved ones left behind; they include people who have had suicidal thoughts and those who have survived attempts … I found the whole text made compelling reading. I could readily identify with some of the clients' stories … Its contents will bring greater understanding and ability to empathise. Sarah Lewis, Person-Centred Supervisor and BACP accredited counsellor in private practice

Our Encounters with Suicide

Dr Alec Grant is now an independent scholar, having retired from his position as Reader in Narrative Mental Health in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Brighton in May 2017. He qualified as a mental health nurse in the mind-1970s, and went on to study psychology, social science and psychotherapy. He is widely published in the fields of ethnography, autoethnography, narrative inquiry, clinical supervision, cognitive behavioural psychotherapy, and communication and interpersonal skills. He originated the 'Our Encounters...' PCCS book series with the late Professor Fran Biley of Bournemouth University, and was lead editor of the first two books in this series, Our Encounters with Madness (2011) and Our Encounters with Suicide (2013).

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Alec Grant

Our Encounters with Suicide

Judith Haire graduated from Sheffield University.  She is widely published in the field of mental health.  Her current research centres on the pre and perinatal links to childhood trauma, the link between childhood adversity and psychoses; and how intergenerational dysfunctionality in families is linked to psychoses and other forms of post-traumatic stress.

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Judith Haire

Our Encounters with Suicide

Francis Biley (1958-2012) was Associate Professor at the University of Bournemouth. He had particular methodological interests in historiography, autoethnography, unitary appreciative inquiry and using the arts and humanities in health care. Clinically, his interests were in the built care environment, and in the service user movement in mental health and adult care. On 31 January 2013 he was awarded a posthumous Professorship in Nursing by Bournemouth University, which was received by his wife Anna, in recognition of his achievement as a scholar and his trajectory towards a Chair.

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Fran Biley

Our Encounters with Suicide

Brendan Stone has lived with mental health problems for nearly 40 years. He lives in Sheffield and has worked extensively with users of mental health services. He is a Professor in the School of English at the University of Sheffield.

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Brendan Stone