WORKING alongside the 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust, Wigan Today is supporting an awareness campaign for suicide prevention to help tackle the borough’s high rates.
Here, in a candid and often harrowing first-hand account, the wife of a Wigan man who committed suicide has spoken of the impact such tragedy has on family. She has asked to remain anonymous.
Frightening flashbacks of finding him hanging started leading to panic attacksA widow who lost her husband to suicide
There was a day last month that was an anniversary for me. It isn’t one that I wish to celebrate, or particularly want to remember. It was one year since my husband died by suicide.
I returned home from work expecting my husband to be in the kitchen as usual. I was met with complete silence. I sensed instinctively that something was very wrong; something that had caused me to feel sick with worry for the past six months. Little did I know then that my world was about to explode.
My husband had been ill with severe anxiety and depression and hadn’t been able to work for six months. Throughout this time, he often felt suicidal and had been in hospital the previous week whilst his medication was changed. He was discharged only four days previously.
I called him. There was no reply. I looked around downstairs and in the garden. I started to climb the stairs. Half way up, I froze while I tried to make sense of the image I saw in the bedroom. The door was wide open and my husband was hanging from the wardrobe. His Wigan Athletic scarf was tied around his neck and attached to the top of the wardrobe door.
My first instinct was to get him down and begin resuscitation, he might still be alive... I rang 999 and continued CPR until the ambulance arrived. Suddenly my home was overtaken by paramedics, police and detectives.
I vaguely remember being gently questioned about the last time I had seen my husband, when I had returned home, and about his illness. I was then informed that the police would need to undress him to look for marks on his body. It suddenly occurred to me that I was a possible suspect. Did they think I had killed my husband?
I was told that my husband had died and I began the agonising wait for my children to arrive. Telling them that their father had killed himself was the hardest thing I have ever had to do as a parent. I then had to telephone his elderly parents and extended family. I was emotionally exhausted and in shock.
The events of the next few days and weeks are a blur - we were in shock. I couldn’t eat, sleep or concentrate. My home was often full of relatives, friends, neighbours and work colleagues all wanting to provide support and it is those regular acts of kindness that kept us going - and still do.
Trying to organise a funeral for your husband is difficult, but when suicide is involved it feels like a marathon task, especially when you are traumatised.
Almost immediately, the recurrent and intrusive thoughts of why?’; I’ve let him down’; could I have done something more?’ had begun. They never stop.
The frightening flashbacks of finding him hanging started leading to panic attacks. They appear from nowhere. They’re never ending - you just learn to live with them.
I felt abandoned and unloved. Why would my husband want to give up on our marriage, our children and life?
He left no suicide note to say that he loved us. Was he angry with us? How must it have felt for him at the end? Was it quick? Was it painful? I turned my home upside down looking for a note.
My children looked on his tablet and found he had been on suicide websites explaining how to kill yourself and effectively. What sort of people could design those?
In the weeks following his death, I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Months of psychological therapy and counselling followed, along with anti-depressants.
One year on, the emotional pain is still present. The flashbacks still come fast and furious. You just learn to live with them.
I sleep poorly, still feel depressed and cannot yet contemplate a happy future without my husband. Memories of past happy times are blocked by the powerful last image of my husband hanging.
That last image is what I carry forward for the rest of my life. My husband’s emotional pain is now mine forever.
• The borough’s rates of suicide are higher than the national average and the Trust has launched a number of initiatives to help those who find themselves at the point of crisis.
Anyone struggling, or concerned about a relative, can contact The Sanctuary - a 24-hour advice line supported by the Trust - on 0300 003 7029.
And any family members affected by suicide can contact the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (Sobs) national helpline on 0300 111 5065