This blog post was written by PAPYRUS volunteer, Linda W, to discuss her inspiration to becoming a volunteer with the charity. To find out more about becoming a volunteer at PAPYRUS, visit the link at the end of this blog.
In 1959, my father ended his life.
Because he had made the decision to take his own life, he was placed in unconsecrated ground – in the Christian religion unconsecrated things have not been declared with holiness. In people’s eyes, what my father had done was the unlawful act of ‘committing suicide’. Though that law was repealed in 1961 and suicide was no longer seen as a criminal act, the stigma attached to it was already so ingrained in everyone, that throughout our younger lives, we children were told to say my father had died in an accident.
Children chanted a rhyme about him. My siblings and I struggled with our new, somewhat dysfunctional, life. In those days support was nowhere to be found.
In 1971, while training to be teachers, my flatmate attempted suicide twice. I stayed with her for weeks until she got the courage to tell her parents that she didn’t want this career. No other help had been offered or was available. She is now 70 and, like me, a happy grandmother.
In 1982, I volunteered with a registered service and supported a man who had to leave his home and live in a hostel. On returning from a six week holiday abroad, I found that he had died by suicide. I had spent two hours a week, for many months, talking with him but, again, I had had no training or support.
PAPYRU gives structured support to all who contact and their ‘safety plan’ ensures that all have internal as well as external resourcefulness in times of stress.
If I’d of had this knowledge back then, together, we could have worked out a plan for this man’s immediate and long-term needs and found the resources to make his life worth living. The internet has its failings but finding help can be at the click of a button. But at that time, I had nowhere to ask for help.
Teaching was a joy to me, which I followed up with presenting healthy choices with to nine- to 19-year-olds as a volunteer. I would rap “protect yourself, respect yourself. It’s okay to say no to sex!”, and the age-appropriate children’s faces would change from horror to smiles, as they understood I would do anything to make them realise how important their choices were; how important they were.
I would talk to them as if I was their favourite gran, sharing with them important messages and tools for life. However, in the tenth year, new people took over and I was forced to resign.
Then the pandemic hit, and my world plummeted.
But last year (2022), after three fallow years, I watched the Three Dads Walking on TV and realised that my need to be part of community could happen through PAPYRUS. I worried about my age, but Prue Leith at 83 is now doing a stage show, so I may have 13 more years to offer!
I’m enjoying the training to become a volunteer immensely and love the fact that my tech skills are going to be enhanced! I want to teach others to be aware of potentially suicidal people, to tell those at risk that we can’t immediately take away their pain, but we are there with them, and together, we will find the support they need to go on.
I’m so happy that PAPYRUS has the expertise and the resources, the passion and the power to remove the stigma of suicide, so that we no longer have to live in the loss, but instead can live in the learning.
Through PAPYRUS, I’m sure I can help to change hurt into help, help into healing, and healing into hope.