Josh Quigley: How we can eradicate suicide

EVERY 40 seconds someone dies as a result of suicide - a startling statistic which equates to a staggering 800,000 people a year globally.

Josh Quigley, is now raising awareness of mental health issues by travelling around the world dressed in a saltire morphsuit.
Josh Quigley, is now raising awareness of mental health issues by travelling around the world dressed in a saltire morphsuit.

Until very recently, I spent every single day feeling suicidal. Finally, after five years of pain, I have started to get real help and leave those feelings behind.

My short but incredible transformation has led me to believe that we can and will eliminate suicide from society one day. That is my mission.

Many people think that this goal is unachievable and unrealistic, but I don’t buy into that way of thinking. In life you always have to aim for the best possible result. Why limit what we can achieve?

In 2014, 696 people in Scotland took their own lives. That’s a significant reduction of 12% from 795 in 2013. If we can achieve a 12% reduction in just one year, then what can we achieve over the next 50 years?

The first and most important step in stopping suicide is encouraging people to take accountability and responsibility for their own lives.

It is empowering to realise that you have the power to shape your future. Once you take responsibility for your life (without blame for your feelings on someone or something beyond your control) you can change your behaviour and actions in order to improve how you think and feel.

The second area is breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health by starting open conversations about it and sharing our experiences.

The taboo nature of mental health means that people are afraid to share how they really feel for fear of exclusion or discrimination. This fear adds to feelings of isolation and prevents people from accessing the help and support they desperately need – compounding their suicidal feelings.

The third vital area is campaigning to improve the public funding and mental health support provided by our government.

Mental health and suicide prevention strategies are significantly underfunded in the UK. We should live in a country where mental health shares equal priority with physical health. The current waiting times for mental health treatments are just not acceptable.

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When I first sought support from the doctor in 2015, I was told to wait nine months to see a specialist and seven months for psychotherapy. Five months later I almost died driving my car into a wall at 80mph after failing to receive adequate help or support.

Current NHS Scotland waiting time targets for mental health psychotherapy are 18 weeks. Can you imagine going to accident and emergency with a broken arm and being told to wait 18 weeks to receive treatment? You just wouldn’t accept it.

The final area of importance is education. Children and young people are the key to creating a future society of mental health acceptance and understanding.

We need to teach kids about mental health in the same way that we teach them about their physical health, history and mathematics throughout their school years. We need to give them an understanding of their mind, how their brain works, and why they think and feel the way they do.

This greater self-awareness will support understanding and acceptance of others and is incredibly important for breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health. With improved education in these formative years, young people will be more likely to speak about it openly about mental health as adults.

By combining all of our efforts in understanding ourselves, starting conversations, petitioning for better government support and improving education – we can put an end to suicide.

It may sound unachievable and unrealistic, but I really believe we can do it.

I’ll leave you with this quote.

“The ones who think they are crazy enough to change the world usually do.”