Sandwell officer shares story on Suicide Prevention Day
A Sandwell officer who describes himself as once being in a “really dark place" is sharing his story on World Suicide Prevention Day to tell people who feel helpless, to keep going.
PC Stephen Thompson works for the Sandwell Partnerships team as an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer and his world was rocked in November 2018, when his brother was killed in a collision in Wolverhampton.
The news hit him like a tonne of bricks and he became inconsolable in his grief. We caught up with PC Thompson who has been with the force for nearly 18 years and who is now ready to share his story on how he is healing.
Tell us about those moments when your life changed forever Steve…
PC Thompson: “It was Monday 26 November 2018 and I had a knock on the door from a police officer wanting to come inside. I knew this officer vaguely from work and didn’t think too much of it, until he sat me down with a grave look on his face.
“He broke the news to me that my brother had been killed while out on his bike. A lorry had crashed into him and the driver had tested positive for cocaine use.
“Anger was what I felt. Absolute anger that someone had killed my dear brother Paul and that anger hasn’t really left me, but I’ve learnt to cope."
What happened to you?
PC Thompson: “I was truly in pieces. Losing my older brother and only sibling was hard enough, but knowing it could have been avoided and not getting to say goodbye to him really broke my heart.
“I went into a really low period of my life where I struggled with my grief and at one point I couldn’t see any way out of my sadness.
“I had lost both my parents before the death of Paul and I could accept that, but the death of my brother triggered feelings in me that I had never felt before. I just kept thinking he wasn’t meant to leave us yet at the age of 50 just weeks from an early retirement and felt incredibly angry and then sad all the time.
“Trying to explain to people how this destroys you is so hard, being so exhausted but not able to sleep, being constantly hungry but when food is in front of you not eating anything."
When did things take a turn for the worse?
PC Thompson: “It was before the Crown Court case was set and after the lorry driver pleaded not guilty. Although there was motivation to get justice for my brother, I just slumped really badly. I went into a state of depression and sought help from my doctor. I was put on anti-depressants and developed severe anxiety. I didn’t want to face anyone or do anything.
“Being a police officer, some people think you’re super strong and that nothing can faze you, but we are all human and we experience the same emotions as everyone else. I was just so down in those days and couldn’t even get the strength to go to work to do the job I love.
“I actually seriously thought about ending my life."
How did you get through those dark moments?
PC Thompson: “I realised that there had to be more to life than just trudging along. I started reluctantly telling people what was wrong with me to get things off my chest and it really helped.
“I got help from charities and support groups and meeting people in a similar position to me made a massive difference to my mental health, just knowing I wasn’t alone.
“I’ve found that writing down my thoughts has helped me to offload in a constructive way and would really recommend it to others."
Who can people get support from if they need it?
PC Thompson: “Friends, family, colleagues, doctors and support groups.
“I would recommend Tough Enough to Care - a mental health group for men. There’s no shame in talking about your feelings, especially if it helps to save yours and other people’s lives.
“Dudley Community Church supported me with counselling and our West Midlands Police Occupational Health team were so helpful. It’s worth utilising any resources you have available to you, whether that’s at work or by researching groups online. Just don’t ever give up."
What advice would you give to anyone going through a traumatic time?
PC Thompson: “Please don’t think that the bad days will last forever. Please talk to people and get the help you need.
“Different things work for different people, for some, walking or the gym will help, for others, watching TV or pampering themselves - whatever it is, please be brave and reach out to people and remember that better days are coming.
“For me, my team at work allowed me to balance my grief, anger and confusion with a proverbial arm around my shoulder, leaving me knowing that I had their support at any time of the day. How do I repay that? All I can say is that I am truly thankful to everyone that helped me. I am still on my journey to recovery, but I know I will get there.
“At my group sessions I learnt that, the hardest step you will take, is the one that brings you through the door."
In January this year, Joseph Large, aged 30, from Woodcross Lane in Coseley, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs and disqualified from driving for two years.
According to the charity Samaritans, in 2018, in the UK and Republic of Ireland, more than 6,800 people died of suicide . Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy and is why it’s so important to raise awareness.
If you or anyone you know needs support, the below agencies can help:
NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ suicide/
Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/support-us/campaign/world- suicide -prevention-day/
Tough Enough to Care - male mental health: https://toughenoughtocare.help/
National Suicide Prevention Alliance: https://www.nspa.org.uk/
Papyrus UK - suicide prevention charity: https://www.papyrus-uk.org/
Mind - mental health charity: https://www.mind.org.uk/
Young Minds: https://bit.ly/3bqIbVa