Fiona has been struggling with mental health problems for about 30 years, and although she still has her bad days, she wants to spread a message of hope. 

For Fiona, it started when she was in her twenties. She found herself getting really anxious in social situations – her hands would shake so much that she couldn’t eat. The anxiety got worse and worse, and alongside it came depression. Things escalated and she began to feel increasingly paranoid, and was eventually diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.  

Fiona became a ‘revolving door patient’, in and out of hospital, and unable to live her life fully. When things got really bad, she made a serious suicide attempt, and still has the scars to show for it. Everything changed after that. She lost her whole life, and in the years that followed, she had to work really hard to build it back up again. 

But over time, that’s exactly what she did. Moving from mental health rehabilitation into supported accommodation, and finally, into her own flat. She lives near family now, who are there to support her, and she feels incredibly lucky to have her independence back. 

Along the way, she recalls facing a lot of stigma. Despite being trained as a psychiatric nurse, she was told she would never work as one, because of her diagnosis. But she didn’t give up.

Fiona still has her bad days, and she still has to live with suicidal thoughts at times, but she knows they’ll pass. She describes her low days as like ‘having a cold’: she just needs to get through those days, so that she can live her life again. She finds accepting this really helpful. “There will be days when I can’t shower, or get dressed. I used to feel really guilty about this, but for me, it’s really helpful to just allow myself that, and to remind myself that it will get better.” 

Finding things that help her get through these days has been a bit of trial and error, and Fiona is keen to stress that what works for one person might not work for another. “I try to break time down into really small chunks, because sometimes thinking about even just getting through the day feels like too much, but getting through the next hour, or minutes, feels much more achievable.  

“Watching TV helps me, or seeing friends – but I’ve learned that I feel safest with someone calming who will take my mind off my thoughts, rather than someone who wants to chat about my worries. I’ve tried listening to music and drinking tea in the past – both of which will help some people, but made things worse for me, so the best coping mechanisms are definitely as unique as you are. 

“Over the years I’ve learnt that speaking about your suicidal thoughts really is a strength. And all it takes is for that one person to listen, without judgement. All I want is to feel understood and acknowledged.”

Our Ask Them About Suicide campaign empowers people to directly and confidently address the topic of suicide if they think someone is at risk. Visit our campaign hub to what the campaign film and find out more.