Graduate, 23, who survived a suicide attempt reveals how he went from 'existing to living'

Alexandra Thompson
·4-min read
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Henry Lawrence is now in a good place, but attempted suicide nearly three years ago. (Supplied: Henry Lawrence)

A graduate who attempted suicide nearly three years ago has gone from “existing to living”.

Henry Lawrence, 23, fell into a depressive spiral after he became convinced he would not pass his material engineering course at the University of Birmingham.

Falling in with the wrong crowd resulted in Lawrence taking illicit drugs, while a relationship breakdown left him feeling unable to cope.

Read more: How to encourage someone you suspect has suicidal thoughts to reach out

It was not until he woke up in hospital following a suicide attempt that Lawrence realised he had to try and turn his mental health around.

Lawrence, who will shortly start training to become a police officer, has separated himself from any bad influences. He looks after his mental health by confiding in loved ones, exercising and ensuring he gets plenty of sleep.

Lawrence works with the men's health charity Movember, which encourages those who are struggling to reach out for support. (Supplied: Henry Lawrence)
Lawrence works with the men's health charity Movember, which encourages those who are struggling to reach out for support. (Supplied: Henry Lawrence)

Lawrence has a history of depression, with a series of events causing his mood to plummet towards the end of 2017.

“I was struggling at uni, I didn’t think I would pass my course,” he told Yahoo UK.

“I got into being friends with the wrong people, which led to drug abuse.”

The end of a relationship that meant a lot to him only made matters worse.

Read more: Why talking is so important for mental health

“I was struggling at that time and it [the break up] didn’t help,” he said.

Despite being prescribed antidepressants in the past, Lawrence did not want to seek help.

“I had no one,” he said. “I didn’t want my family to know.”

“I didn’t know where I was going or what to do. It just got progressively worse.”

Lawrence confides in his partner Jaimie Barnes when he feels his mental health deteriorating. (Supplied: Henry Lawrence)
Lawrence confides in his partner Jaimie Barnes when he feels his mental health deteriorating. (Supplied: Henry Lawrence)

Lawrence attempted to take his life in his first-year university flat.

To this day, he is unsure how he ended up in hospital, but suspects a flatmate called 999.

With his family none the wiser, Lawrence came around to find no loved ones by his bed.

“That was the turning point,” he said.

Lawrence was discharged three days later, with the hospital staff calling to check up on him for around six weeks.

He was already known by the mental health service Forward Thinking Birmingham, which continued to support him after the ordeal.

Lawrence only confided in his family around eight to nine months later, learning that his mother had similar thoughts after being diagnosed with cancer several years ago.

Surviving his suicide attempt made Lawrence appreciate the “finite amount of time to enjoy life”.

Read more: Half a million Britons take online suicide prevention course amid lockdown

Now in a good place, Lawrence – who graduated with a 2.1 Honours – works to manage his mental health via exercise and other lifestyle choices.

“When I get anxious or start to worry, I go for a run, even if it’s 20 minutes,” he said. “It makes a massive amount of difference.

“I [also] need to get the right amount of sleep. I try to get seven to nine hours a night.”

He also confides in loved ones when it all gets too much.

“I have a good group of friends I know I could talk to them, my partner as well,” said Lawrence. “I have a lot of people I can talk to when it gets hard.”

When he feels his mental health slipping, Lawrence “forces himself out of his comfort zone”.

“When my mental health starts getting worse I become lazy and don’t want to do anything,” he said.

“I have to force myself to go out of my comfort zone – go for a 15 minute walk, get out the house, make the bed in the morning.”

When asked what he would say to anyone having suicidal thoughts, Lawrence said: “You may not see it now, but in a week/month/year/five years, you will start seeing the positives and it will change how you live.

“I went from existing to living.”

Talking ‘can save lives’

In the UK and Ireland, 6,859 people died by suicide in 2018.

Men are three times more likely to take their own life than women in the UK, rising to four times in Ireland.

The rate of male suicide in England and Wales is the highest it has been since 2000.

“It is very upsetting to see these figures,” said Brendan Maher, from the men’s health charity Movember.

“Every suicide represents a tragic loss of life.

“Tools such as Movember Conversations provide very practical guidance on how to support those in your life who might be struggling.

“Sometimes we don’t know where to start, or what to say if someone says they’re not okay. And whilst we know these conversations may be difficult, having them can save lives.”

For confidential emotional support at times of distress, contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org.