Every year, over five thousand people take their own lives. The male suicide rate is typically four times that of women. Suicide is a serious business.
I’m Dave, I'm the writer and director of a play called GAME OVER. I wrote GAME OVER, partly because I’ve had the privilege of working with and supporting suicidal people for over eight years at The Maytree Respite Centre. Both their work and other charities in the care sector need funds if they are to keep providing this vital support.
Personally, this play also means a lot to me because I know what it’s like to be suicidal. It feels like the right time to share a little of that with you now.
My childhood situation had always been difficult. My father was very old school and hands off. Looking back, it’s hard to recall us ever having a single conversation when I was growing up.
My mother, on the other hand, outwardly gave the appearance of being more hands on. She certainly cared for me and my sister’s physical needs, but there was an emotional distance or even coldness to the way she interacted with us.
The atmosphere at home was often flat and lifeless. There was little spontaneity, fun or expressiveness. I coped by retreating into my own fantasy world, creating characters and stories. Somehow, in my imagination, I found a way to relate to different parts of myself.
Outwardly though, I was incredibly shy. Talking to others was terrifying. I tried to manage my anxiety by presenting a brash, extroverted side of myself. However, letting people how I really felt was impossible, partly because I wasn’t even sure myself.
I was awkward at school, had few friends and didn’t know how to reach out to others for help.
When puberty hit, the loneliness I’d always felt at home intensified. A sense of despair set in, along with an isolation that became all-encompassing and overwhelming. That’s when it started to look like suicide was the only thing that could offer me an escape.
At the end of my first-year of the sixth form, I failed all my A Level exams, getting a 'U' for Unclassified in every subject. By then, I’d completely disengaged from everything in my life.
When I returned to school the next term for my A-Level retakes, my plan was to tell them I was dropping out.
One of the teachers took me to his office. He wanted to know a bit more about my decision. I don’t really remember saying much to him at the time, but there was something about him taking the time to listen – even if only for a few moments – that set me on the road to recovery. Although it was just a tiny spark, it gave me some hope.
During my twenties and thirties, I was in and out of therapy. It was a period of my life when I had to learn to grow up and discover who I was.
Although I worked as a computer programmer across this time, part of me felt drawn to working with people. I began to challenge myself, by attending drama classes and playing in bands.
In my early forties, I retrained as a psychotherapist. Eventually, I got a part-time job at the Maytree Respite Centre working with suicidal people. I found the work tremendously rewarding.
Looking back, although I enjoyed my old career, working with machines was also a way to keep myself hidden and safe from others.
The play brings together several of my interests: music, comedy, drama and mental health. In October last year I put on a one-off performance of the show, and I was blown away by the response. People really connected with the story and characters. I'm nervous about running a show for a week in the first week of July, but it's also very exciting. I hope you can make it.
It’s been quite emotional to write about this, but I think it probably captures what people staying at Maytree or sitting with counsellors experience. Sometimes, we just need to be heard.
Thank you for hearing me.
All profits from performances of GAME OVER support some great mental health charities including CALM, Help Counselling, Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education, One in Four and the Maytree Respite Centre.
You can learn more about the play by watching this little video starring Dave himself.
GAME OVER is running at the Bread and Roses Theatre in Clapham from Tuesday 3rd till Saturday 7th July 2018 at 7 pm.