'Why I tried to finish off my charmed life'
What made young, successful Catherine Lucas attempt suicide? She tells all for new campaign
SHE has, she says, lived a charmed existence but one that she wanted to end.
Catherine Lucas, a successful Glasgow accountant, is not the most obvious poster girl for Scotland's war on suicide, but she has decided to speak out and be identified after coming close to taking her own life.
Lucas, 32, has agreed to help Health Scotland in its campaign against the rising levels of suicide.
Experts at the government's health improvement agency are bracing themselves to deal with the mental health costs of the recession, warning that middle-class professionals are far from immune from suicide – the most common cause of death in Scots aged 16-35.
Lucas, now fit and well, yesterday told the story of her darkest weeks in her personal battle against depression to convince others in the same situation to seek help.
"People seem to think that because you have a home, because you don't have any dependents and you seem quite stable, that you can't possibly be unhappy," Lucas said yesterday.
"But depression isn't about being unhappy, or unlucky. I think I have a very charmed life, to be honest. It is not about being unhappy, it is about being unhappy with yourself.
"I was really, really hating myself to the point where I couldn't even look at my own eyes in the mirror because I was so disgusted with myself," she added. "In fact, you feel a bit of a failure for feeling the way you do.
"The negative thoughts just spiral downwards. I can understand why people don't understand what it is like to be depressed. But they need to know."
Lucas became unwell last year. "I was self-harming, bruising myself with blunt instruments in places nobody could see. I wasn't eating properly, I wasn't officially bulimic but I was going in that direction. I was living on my own for the first time in my life.
"I didn't look after my mental health. I kept thinking about how I wanted it to end. I would cross the road and wish that the buses would go faster and take me away.
"The way I managed to get myself out and about was to imagine someone with a pitchfork at my back. That is how I got myself to work, to the shops, out and about.
"When that person had to be constantly behind me I knew I really needed help."
That was when things got better. Lucas's boss urged her to see her doctor and that psychiatric help would be available through her employee health insurance.
Eventually, she was off work for seven weeks, four of them in hospital. Now Lucas is using a word she never did previously: suicide. "It is not something we say," Lucas explained. "We use terms like 'doing away with yourself', 'not wanting to be here any more'.
"That detracts from the seriousness of it and stops people from speaking about it openly. Now I use the word 'suicide' openly with friends and family, not that I am suicidal any more. Before I was thinking: if only I could not be here any more. It is good to talk."
The recession has already seen a spate of suicides among middle-class professionals.
In September last year financial expert Kelvin Ninham, 46, threw himself in front of a train after predicting the upcoming recession and judging that the Government would be powerless to solve the crisis.
Meanwhile, the most comprehensive analysis so far of the health effects of economic downturn has shown that unemployment and recession add to the death toll from suicide.
Researchers at Oxford University found a 3 per cent increase in unemployment leads to rises of about 4 per cent in suicides.
The Scottish Government has set itself a target of cutting suicides by 20 per cent between 2002 and 2013.
But 843 people took their own lives in Scotland last year, part of a worldwide toll now believed to be above one million a year. The Scottish total outnumbers road traffic deaths and murders together.
Moreover, Scotland's suicide rate has soared over the past few decades and is now nearly double the figure for England and Wales.
Health Scotland is seeking to get across the message that help is available. "We lose two people a day and three-quarters of them are men," said Dougie Paterson, the programme manager of Choose Life, NHS Health Scotland's anti-suicide campaign. "We must never forget that suicide is preventable. Just talking can save a life." He added: "It is too early to say what the recession will bring. But we know that unemployment rises can bring an increase in suicides. And we know that a lot of middle-class professionals are facing redundancy right now. So we know that nobody, whatever their class or job, is immune."
• Breathing Space: 0800 83 85 87; Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90; www.chooselife.net.
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