When Colin Slade talks about the stigma experienced by suicide survivors, he's speaking from personal experience.

Colin, who manages a disability support service, has lived with depression for much of his life. His first suicide attempt came at the age of 13 and at various times in his life he’s continued to have suicidal thoughts.

His last serious attempt was as a result of the combination of more than one medication whose side-effects were depression, along with the end of a relationship that he thought was going well, but wasn't.

The stigma of attempted suicide

Following the last attempt on his own life, he was admitted to hospital, where he felt the stigma associated with suicide first-hand.

"My face was all black from the charcoal they made me drink to counteract the overdose. Everyone walking by could tell that I'd tried to overdose and the nurses and the registrar were very cold with me... I got the sense that they were only there for people who wanted to live."

Colin hopes the stigma associated with suicide and attempted suicide is diminishing, but he says he isn't convinced. He hears about situations where suicide is discussed and there is discrimination.

“Usually it's a third party point of view, with someone saying ‘what a horribly selfish thing to do'. But having been through the experience, you know that the suicidal person is actually thinking the opposite - that their family and friends really will be better off without them."

Being open is a strengthening thing

Speaking as a suicide survivor, Colin says sharing personal experiences is part of the healing journey and also helps to educate others.

"The most empowering and affirming thing is for people to learn and know that they are not alone," he says. "In the midst of despair, it is so uplifting and liberating to hear about other people's similar experience. Being open is a strengthening thing - you are stronger than you would be if you had something to hide."