Consultant breaks stigma about suicide by paying tribute to colleague
- Credit: BEN FOX
For the past year, the subject of mental health and wellbeing has been in the spotlight like never before.
And for a doctor from west Norfolk, he has gone the extra mile to help raise awareness after his friend and colleague died by suicide just a few months ago.
Dr Ben Fox, a consultant anaesthetist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, has raised almost £2,500 for a mental health support charity.
It comes after his friend, also an anaesthetist at the hospital, made the heart-breaking decision to take his own life.
Dr Fox, a married father-of-two, revealed how worrying it was that there had been “no warning signs”.
The 39-year-old said: “As far as there being any underlying reasons, I’ve spoken to his friends and family and none of us can pinpoint anything in particular. No one could think of one specific reason.”
Dr Fox lives in Castle Acre with his family and has worked at the hospital for more than five years. He highlighted the need for more openness surrounding the topic of mental health and suicide, especially for men and people working in the medical profession.
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“There are stresses and strains within the job itself. It’s a high-pressure and highly intensive job. During the last year, we’ve seen anaesthetists having to look after the very sickest Covid patients and combining the stressful nature of the job and the other stresses of life too.”
He described his friend as a “brilliant person” who would have "gone on to be a fantastic doctor and anaesthetist”.
"He was incredibly funny, with a sharp wit, and would always make me laugh – he was a master of puns.
“He wasn’t just a colleague, but he was a friend too. We had known each other personally for years. I still can’t get my head around it, and I don’t think I ever will.
“Everyone questions ‘what could I have done, what could I have said, should I have gone to seen him more often?’ but there were just no signs.”
Within a day of finding out the news, Dr Fox decided he wanted to do a fundraiser but first needed to make sure it was the right thing to do.
“My wife has been very supportive, and she was a huge sounding board about the idea. I never wanted to do this for any attention on social media, or otherwise. This is all about raising awareness and fundraising.”
Throughout the month of February, Dr Fox has replaced his profile picture on all of his social media accounts with a "nohawk" selfie – a reverse mohawk. As well as raising money for the charity Shout 85258, a free 24/7 text support service, he hoped “making a fool” out of himself would help break the taboo of talking about suicide.
“I decided to raise money for Shout after discovering more about the charity following a discussion with another friend who is a member of The Association of Anaesthetists. She wrote a document about suicides of anaesthetists which mentions the charity. I thought it was a very noble service.”
Dr Fox originally aimed to raise £150, an amount he thought he may have to “bump up” himself, but within a week, he had raised more than £1,000. In total, he has raised £2,486.
"I was blown away.
“Although mental health is getting discussed more now, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to talking about the topic of suicide. It’s still a taboo.”
He emphasised that there is still a huge stigma attached to open discussion about those who have died by suicide, but that people feel it is easier and safer to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in other ways.
He added: “The apprehension and stigma talking about it helps to perpetuate the issue. If we break down the taboo, then we could help a lot of people. If we break down the barrier, then we could help a lot of people too.”
For more information about Shout 85258 visit the website.
If you need help and support, call Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline 0808 196 3494 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours 7 days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple and Android.