Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Teenage Suicide & Reaching for Help

I received one of the most gracious and humbling emails that anyone has ever written me, this morning, from a woman who left a comment on my blog post, ‘The Woodpecker at the End ofthe World’ (where I write about a close encounter with suicide, when I was ‘saved’ by the sound of a woodpecker, which pulled me away from my dark mind and back into the light of the moment).

The comment read:

Followed your link from twitter. You and your story were my woodpecker today. Thank you for being there.

I told her to email me if she needed to, and received this, today:

Hi Les!

I follow you on Twitter and saw your post yesterday about the woodpecker. I'm the one who left the comment. I hope I didn't alarm you.

I just wanted to say that you never know who is reading your posts and how much you are helping them, even if they leave no comment at all. And you are very special to share your stories with others.

The truth is, I'm not okay and I haven't been okay for a very long time. I try to sound positive and upbeat when I am posting and corresponding with others but some days are worse than others. And yesterday your link to the post about the woodpecker helped me through the day.

Again, I hope I didn't startle you or worry you.

Thank you for being there. You mean a lot to many, even if we've never met in person.

[Name Withheld]

I was intending to write a blog about just this (after asking for the woman’s permission)… and not to massage my own ego… but to remind us all that, sometimes, the things we say or do can be all that’s needed to help lead others out of very dark places.

I write stuff. I do hope it helps, but it’s always great to find out it does help. It compels me to keep writing, because now and again, my words seem to be read at just the right time… which is also the reason I persist in spamming my poor Twitter followers with repeated and rotated blog links a zillion times a day.

The Woodpecker blog was written more than 14 months ago. Barring a few breaks I’ve taken, I’ve repeated it about twice a day ever since, and though this has pissed a relative handful of grumpy people, hundreds of others have appreciated it – many of whom have thanked me for sending out those words at just the right time for them. It’s certainly been the blog I’ve received the most emails about.

I write about my experiences. Sadly, too many people can relate to those experiences, but by sharing these details, they help to remind others that they’re really not alone.

I recall quite a few people, over the past year or so, who have told me they’d like to write a blog about their own experiences with various debilitating conditions and illnesses, but they worry that nobody would want to read them.

The thing is, us humans have so much in common - when we forget to hold on to the things we believe set us apart - that pretty much whatever you write or otherwise communicate about your problems and triumphs to the world outside your mind, there’s going to be someone who understands… who can empathise and perhaps relate to their own experience… people who you can help, or who will help you…

So don’t be afraid to speak out about the things that are truly important to you.

Don’t be embarrassed to write it down, paint it, sculpt it, dance it, or whatever… as long as you are creative, rather than destructive, send your message out to the world, and then don’t hold back on promoting and broadcasting yourself, because you may just be the big difference in someone else’s day, to help them see another day.

That’s the beauty of humanity… we’re better when we care about and share with each other…

And this would have been the end of my blog, but something else happened today that I want to write about.

My friend, Georgina, from @M40Offices, posted a message on her business’s Facebook and Twitter feeds today – an appeal to find a young girl, Molly O’Donovan, who had been missing since Sunday morning.

She’s a ‘local’ girl, from Banbury, in Oxfordshire -  not far away - and M40 has business connections in that area, too.

I help with M40’s social networking, so I did a few retweets and shared the information to my own pages, and I kept looking in on Thames Valley Police’s missing persons page, because I felt sure that they’d update it in the day to say Molly had been found, alive and well, and then all the kind souls who shared those messages could stand down with a sigh of relief.

Late in the afternoon, Thames Valley Police did indeed update the missing person’s page, with this:

Missing girl - Banbury - update

07 August 2012, 3:51 pm

Thames Valley Police can confirm the body of a teenage girl was found in a wooded area near Foscote Rise at 11.40am this morning (7/8).

The body has now been formally identified as that of missing 14-year-old Molly O’Donovan.

The death is not believed to be suspicious at this stage and enquiries remain ongoing. There is no further information to release at this time.

The family of Molly do not want to speak to the media and have asked that their privacy is respected at this extremely difficult time. Members of the media are asked to respect their wishes.

I don’t mean to offend anyone with speculation, but the fact that Molly was found in woodland, and that there were no suspicious circumstance, infers that she took her own life.

She was 14-years-old…

A childhood friend of mine, a beautiful soul named Mandy Thompson, died on Saturday from internal bleeding. She was 41-years-old, and she’d had kidney problems for most of her adult life, but this was such a mean, totally unexpected curve-ball and her family are obviously crippled, now. She’s a sister and a daughter and an auntie. My own family are devastated, but I can’t imagine what Mandy’s are going through.

I think the only positive I can find in Mandy’s death is that she’d been seriously ill in the past, and her family must have considered the possibility of her passing, even though they’ll have been praying it wouldn’t come any time soon, so there would have been that knowing of love… that whatever happened, that love was never far from heart or mind.

Molly O’Donovan was 14-years-old. She went out of her house on Sunday morning and didn’t come back, and bless the poor girl – if she did commit suicide – she would have felt so alone and so afraid.

I almost hope that it turns out she’s died in some freak accident, because at least that would be easier for her family to eventually digest.

It breaks my heart… that someone so young and with so much life ahead of them could face that same moment of personal Armageddon as I did, back in Woodpecker Woods, and lose to their demons.

We have to break the stigma of talking about our feelings; of communicating that catastrophic sadness and confusion to those around us… who care for us… and despite what we may think when we watch or read the news, there is so much love in this world of ours, if we just look right, without fear of embarrassment or the crippling reluctance to show that, yes, we are sometimes weak and need help.

Better still, let’s sweep the stigma away completely and allow ourselves the freedom to feel we can speak up when we need to.

Until that happens, love and cherish all who are dear to you, because none of us are here forever; but together, there’s always the shine of something so special… of life… and life is to be lived to its fullest…

RIP Molly O’Donovan

RIP Mandy Thompson


  1. Enjoyed your blog today, Les. Yes, you never know who is listening, who is reading, and who might be helped.
    I am so sorry to hear about your childhood friend. God bless her family and all those who mourn for her.
    I am also very sorry to hear the outcome of Molly O'Donovan. It is especially sad when one so young with her whole life ahead of her, ends it.
    Keep doing what you're doing, Les. Keep those tweets coming.

  2. To the many of you feeling depressed lonely or helpless ...I did/do/will many times as the song says "everyone hurts sometimes" but some suffer more than others...we all know life is/seems not to be fair.
    Many are hurting, and few helping.
    There is always hope whatever the circumstances(even when dying) took me many years to understand the real value of life(how precious life is and how good any one can do to others...even a smile).
    I learn the most beautiful things in life are free and many of us me included did/do not value them like we should "how precious is to have taste,vision,hear a song,walk,run,swim,laugh to be able to enjoy the sky the wind in our face, the sound of waves or birds, the warm of the sun, the blue sky.Be still, feel the good around you.
    Never loose hope...bad days do not last forever.
    Believe me, there are many good people in the world perhaps you did not find them yet...I did not find them when I most needed it... not easy it is life.
    Please let go of pain and get help, try to find the good people,they exist.
    Never stop trying you will succeed even if today does not look like you will.I was there...
    You can contact me any time if you ever need as I said we all hurt sometimes and I did/do and will...but try to rejoice in life by helping others and in the process helping yourself.

  3. We recently lost a dear woman, mother of 3 girls, she was leaving work and hit by a semi truck. Melonie was a sweet person and her sister is my daughters dearest friend. She was in great health and gone in a moment. Also a brother of a dear friend committed suicide. He just walked out of his house and shot himself under a tree. He left a small daughter and wife bewildered. Life is short. You are so right to savor every moment with loved ones.

  4. What a lovely post, Les. Heart-wrenching, too, but the message is crystal-clear. I'm so sorry for your loss, and for the O'Donovan family's. I do hope both Molly and Mandy have found peace wherever they are. Thank you for being the voice that puts experiences like these into a positive perspective.

  5. It's very hard to talk about the bad things that have happened to us on blogs like this. I don't talk about all the (major) bad things that have happened to me. There's many I've never spoken about, but I have shared two things: one that I was bullied all of growing up (although I've never gone into details) and also that last year my house burned down in a fire and a person and our dog died in the fire. Sometimes I'm humiliated that I shared these things and almost regret it because they are so personal. If sharing them has helped anyone though, which I hope it has, then it's all right. Sometimes I get afraid that sharing such personal things will backfire on me though.

    It bothers me when children die for any reason. Actually, it bothers me when ANYONE dies. I wish it didn't have to happen. I wish we could all continue to enjoy life and enjoy the company of those we love. And my horror about it is often reflected in my writing. I write about necromancers quite a bit because maybe I wish I could control death like they can. It definitely helps to channel those emotions into creative things. I've not only done this in writing, but all growing up, I used to compose music on the piano as well. People didn't know it, but I'd cry as I wrote the music privately. It was such a personal thing for me that I often wouldn't let people listen to me play piano at all.

  6. Les, I just wanted to say that in a world of social media where the trivial and mundane become the news of the day, the honesty and depth of your posts strike a chord.

    I have been in the position of dealing with my children who lost a friend to suicide when they were teenagers and there is no explaining it, no easing it for them. Just heartbreaking.


  7. I am quite certain that if you often share your experiences and pains eventually some will start bullying you again.
    Sad to see people enjoying causing suffering to others already in pain but they have to be in pain themselves to enjoy harming others...we may think not but they do not have a happy life.
    Do not let them bully or stop you sharing and find others like you good people.
    This quote has been very useful to me:
    "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
    Today when I have bad moments I think example:this will not last and I look at a bird, a tree and I feel so lucky.I can see, the wonders of the good simple things, like drinking water, tasting chocolate...trying to forget the many more I do not have and a smile arrives to my face and I think I can make myself and others happier.
    Remember your unhappiness will not help anyone to be happier.Try to be happy and help others to be it too.
    No one can fix the world,but we can make a few even only one person happier.
    It makes my life worthwhile

  8. Les, I tried to make a comment a couple of days ago, but couldn't work our the URL bit! der! You are the best writer I know. I love the way you put things. You help so many people and must continue to share your story. Thank you for your wonderful friendship. Lets hope you help other kids like Molly to never get in that position. Big hugs xxx

  9. What a coincidence that I read your blog today, for the first time ever, and it is this post. Tomorrow is the 10-year-anniversary of when my 21-year-old brother committed suicide. That's the first time I've said it "out loud" on the computer. And after 10 years, just thinking about it still makes me vomit. I can only begin to imagine what Molly's family is going through. And that poor little girl. My God. I wish they could all see how much we would miss them when they're gone and how our hearts break over and over again. Then maybe, just maybe, they would change their mind. RIP Molly & RIP Mandy

  10. Thank you for sharing all of this with your viewers.

  11. I wish I could be more like you who could open others mind.

  12. Hey Les
    I just wrote 900 words of selfpitying blah here and then found I couldn't post it. Probably best for all.

    Anyway thanks for your blog I intend to read more of it over the next few days. This page really helped me today.

  13. Wow, this is the first time I've dropped by your blog. I'm glad I did. It takes a lot of courage to talk about such deep things, but if more people would do it, I know a lot of lives would be saved. Keep doing what you're doing, Les. :)

  14. Hi, I just read you for the first time. Nice post and I agree, sometimes when you speak from the heart in public forums you might be helping more than you think! I just followed you on twitter. Randa Handler

  15. I found your blog through a tweet. I'm currently working on a couple of projects related to depression and suicide loss, both of which have greatly impacted my life. Thanks for your work and your heart.

  16. Thank you for the lovely blog post. In two days, it will be my fiance's 26th birthday. He killed himself 9 months, 1 week ago. I wish he had found his woodpecker at the end of the world. I actually stopped blogging when he died, but seeing how words can change a person's life, I might just start again.