FEATURE: 'It took me 3 suicide attempts to realise it's OK not to be OK'
Sadly, Mick Finnegan's story will resonate with a lot of people.
Mick is a 33-year-old from Dublin who currently lives in the UK midlands. He wrote to JOE recently to tell his story about being homeless and alone at various points in his life, and how he made several attempts to take his own life at his lowest points.
He has since set up State Of Mind in the UK, which helps the emotional wellbeing of rugby players in the UK, their families and their community.
He also regularly gives talks to people whose mental health is not as it should be.
The Crumlin native told JOE, "There's not enough talk coming from a dark and horrible place. That's why I sent this in, it's so hard to see when you're in a dark place but things do get better."
This is Mick's story.
Warning: This is a particularly tough read with content that may be upsetting to some.
It's OK not to be OK
I didn’t realise I had a mental health problem before 2009. This was probably one of the hardest of times of my life. I hit a crisis when there was a death in the family and I simply didn’t know how to cope. I broke down crying. I was angry and upset and I didn’t know how to deal with how I felt. I just knew that I wanted to escape those feelings. The hurt. The anger. The loss. The pain.
So, I climbed a bridge in London, convinced I wanted to die.
At that moment I was determined to end it all and to escape the reality I was living in.
I got into a four hour stand-off with the police and was ultimately talked down by Major Howard Russell, the Deputy Director for Social Services for the Salvation Army in the UK and Ireland. Howard helped me off the streets when I was a kid, sleeping rough in Dublin. He’s been the only consistent person in my life for last 15 years.
When I was on the bridge, he said one thing that stuck in my mind and possibly saved my life.
“I love you.”
It was at that moment that I didn’t want to feel the way I felt. As if, in that moment, all the hurt and pain had gone.
I’d experienced something in my life which I’d never had before; someone gave a shit.
Following this, I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and, while I was in hospital, I received amazing treatment and managed to get some stability. Unfortunately, chaos followed as the British Transport Police charged me and then TFL contemplated taking me to court to recover their loss of earnings. Eventually it was decided that it wasn’t in the public's interest to pursue the case.
When I was released from hospital, I tried hard to reintegrate myself back into society; however, my suicide attempt had made it into the local and national press. Nobody would give me a job so I had no income and couldn’t support myself financially which led to my mental health deteriorating and having suicidal thoughts again.
As soon as I made my second suicide attempt, I started crying because at that moment I realised I didn’t want to die.
That moment in a park became the catalyst for me to try and pursue some stability in my life. I realised then, more than ever before, that I wanted to live so I proactively pursued and linked in with my Community Mental Health Team.
I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to fight it. But I still struggle with how I feel.
More recently I have become a student in order to gain a professional qualification to work towards a career in Mental Health. I’m very passionate about making a difference but the transition hasn’t been easy. Prior to moving into university, I found myself homeless again after a relationship breakdown and I was sleeping rough on the streets for weeks.
I was so lost I’d sit in a car park wishing I did things differently and I would cry myself to sleep. Unsurprisingly, this ultimately led to the decline in my mental health again. I felt worthless, like I hadn’t achieved anything in my 33 years.
I started self-harming again and, although I tried to link in with the Community Mental Health Services, I didn’t have a GP. Every time I self harmed, I was taken to A&E, stitched up and sent away again. Given a leaflet and told to call any of the helpline numbers on it if I was feeling low.
I was desperately crying out for someone to help me and instead I got arrested, spent the night in a police cell and was fined £300 for the trouble. This was after an incident in an A&E.
It took all that pain, misery and hopelessness for me to get the appropriate services to engage with me. I must give credit to those at University, My course tutor and my Mental Health Advisor went above and beyond the call of duty to help me. Not to mention my fellow students who, for some reason, elected me as their Welfare Officer.
It’s not been easy battling through all of this and trying to get some stability in my life but one thing I do know is that life does get better; even when you can’t see any light. In the darkest of times when I’ve tried to kill myself, somehow I found the will and a reason to live.
I’m not sharing this with you because I want sympathy or for anyone to feel sorry for me. But because I want those who suffer in silence, those who can’t communicate with others effectively and those who don’t engage with services to know that it’s okay, life will get better.
And it’s okay not to be okay.
JOE would like to thank Mick - who can be contacted on Twitter here - for taking the time to write this piece.