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'My recent trip home brought me back to a time when I was naïve, stupid and emotionally unravelling'

Rick Rossiter shares his story: from suicide attempts in his teens to becoming mental health advocate.

Rick Rossiter

TODAY IS WORLD Suicide Prevention Day.

Most of us can understand the pain left behind by suicide even if we do not understand the reasons.

It is not a disorder like Bipolar or Schizophrenia, though it can be associated in some cases. Often, it is an action taken by an individual influenced by many issues in their life.

I am just back from holidays, where I visited my hometown in Canada. The place where I was raised.

I got to spend time with friends and family and share beautiful moments that I am thankful to have considering what happened almost 31 years ago.

I also took lots of pictures – into the thousands – and a select few took me back to a night when I was 15: naïve, stupid and emotionally unravelling.

These pictures were of a building that I jumped off, trying to end it all: a leap into the unknown.

I am alive today through pure luck and/or divine intervention that night and on many occasions afterwards.

After months recovering from a broken spine and legs and returning to school, I left again for a three-month stay in another hospital.

I travelled hundreds of miles away for a psychiatric review which was of no true help. I was given no diagnosis or a care plan to follow. From there, I went forth on an undesirable journey that included more suicide attempts, psychiatric hospitalisations and weathering through so many of my dark storms.

I also began to experience the stigma and misconceptions that still follow me to this day.

As a youth, ‘stigma’ was not in my vocabulary, though looking back I certainly experienced a lot of it.

I was in the hospital for over three months after my first attempt to die. I spent another two months at home before I went back to school and it was there during a break that another student – who I really didn’t know too well – asked me, “Why?”

He was the first one to ask that question.

My family, for all their caring, could not deal with my situation. After coming home from my stay in the hospital in the city, isolation began to set it. Being stared at and talked about was unbearable – so much so that I ended up leaving home at 16 and moved to the city on my own.

My (eventual) diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder in my mid-20s and Borderline Personality Disorder in my 30s added greater challenges. People’s attitudes would change when they would hear about these.

But from all of this, even if I had my time back, I still wouldn’t change a thing. Why?
Because of who I am today: happily married for over 27 years; a father of two; and now a mental health advocate.

I’ve had beautiful moments of such brightness that outshone the darkness, hands down.

I’ve walked a long road with many people helping me along the way and, finally, through self-discovery I have acquired tools to keep me in check, to balance out that part of me that has Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder.

I say “that part” because that is what it is, but for a long time I felt “I was” these disorders.

Now I am so much more – as an individual and as a member of a greater community.

I have worth and much to give. I see that life is about ‘what’s next’ and not about ‘what was or is’.

Were my suicide attempts preventable? Yes, on so many different levels from myself to the wider society.

But here is the truth to that statement: they were not preventable at that time … and
sadly for many people now that holds true as well.

Why? Because we don’t teach our children or ourselves about how to take care of our mental health. We have not learned the tools to work things out or to say if things go wrong to ask for help.

We have never been taught the right way to speak about mental health and until we do, things that could have been prevented, won’t be.

Rick Rossiter is a mental health advocate with See Change and an ambassador of Refocus from the College of Psychiatrists. He strives to give a voice to people with mental health issues and to spread awareness to fight stigma throughout society. 

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Aware 1800 804848 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247247 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 666666 (for under 18s)

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About the author:

Rick Rossiter

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