Trigger warning: this post contains information about suicide that may be upsetting for some readers.
This week it was World Suicide Prevention day and while these campaigns are great to raise awareness, every day should be suicide prevention day.
In the UK and ROI, there were 6859 suicides in 2018. That’s an average of 18 people per day and the rate has been dramatically rising, particularly for younger people under 25. To make matters worse, the current climate with the pandemic is expected to increase suicide rates due to preventative measures affecting our mental health. Already in the first 8 weeks of the UK lockdown, 25 children and young people under-18 died by suicide, and that is just one age group.
Men are particularly vulnerable to death by suicide. 75% of all suicides are completed by men and it is the leading cause of death in men aged 20-49. The widely accepted theory as to why men are more likely to take their own lives is because of the stigma towards men showing emotions and showing vulnerability. For generations, men are encouraged to be ‘strong’ and we hear phrases like, “boys don’t cry” or, “man up”, conditioning men not to express their emotions because emotion is ‘weak’. Men experience mental health problems just as women do, but unfortunately, GP consultation rates in the UK are 32% lower in men than women, proving that they’re not as comfortable reaching out for help. This damaging experience has led to men not seeking help for their mental health and suffering in silence until they reach their breaking point and see suicide as their only way of ending their pain.
Women are more likely, however, to attempt suicide and the alarming figures are showing that completed suicides are on the rise. There has been a shocking increase of 83% in women taking their life which was around 3 per week; the highest ever recorded.
We must address this devastating consequence to mental ill-health and learn to talk about suicide to prevent more lives being lost. But how do you have a conversation about suicide and what do you do if someone is experiencing a crisis?
If you recognise someone is struggling to cope, the best thing to do is ask: “Are you thinking about suicide?” It is a myth that asking someone about suicide will encourage them to do it. The fact is, you have to be in that suicidal mindset to complete suicide. You are in no way fuelling their emotional anguish by asking the question, and it has been expressed that for some when questioned and allowed to talk about their thoughts it does occasionally deter them because vocalising it makes them realise how serious the consequences are.
If someone does feel suicidal, you have to establish how imminent the risk is. If someone is literally on their way to end their life or has a detailed plan and a timeframe set, then you simply take them to A&E or call 999.
Otherwise, if someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts but has no intent or plan to end their life, then we can help them get an urgent, on-the-day GP appointment or contact 111 if it is out of hours. Suicidal thoughts are surprisingly more common than you might think, but everyone needs to be assessed and given the support they deserve to feel happy in life.
Several charitable organisations can help too. Samaritans and SHOUT are two fantastic organisations that are open 24/7 and 365 days a year. They are also completely confidential, free to use, and will not show up on your phone bill.
It’s important to make sure you’re okay too. Supporting someone who is struggling can be distressing, especially if it is someone you care about. If you feel affected by talking about suicide, those charities above are also able to support you too.
So even after World Suicide Prevention Day, we must pay attention to the issue of suicide that it urgently needs. Opening up the conversation on suicide and understanding how to signpost someone to help is the first step to progress and recovery, so please, share this post for others to read, and let’s keep the conversation going beyond one day.
If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com or visit the Samaritans website to find details of the nearest branch. You can also text SHOUT to 85158 if you’re in crisis for support.