Suicide article trigger warning

Life is full of challenges. At times we have the emotional, financial, physical and mental resilience to deal with the situation and move on, but not always. When things start to get on top of us, we need someone to turn to. Someone who will listen without judgement.

No Sign of Not Coping

Last week, I read a LinkedIn post about another life lost. A young man, embarking on his career in the building trade had been on site with colleagues, pulling his weight and getting on with the job. After work, he joined friends in the pub. None of the people around him that day had any sign that anything was out of the ordinary. The following morning the boss received a call, informing him of his employee’s death by suicide.

I don’t know this young man and he wouldn’t have been the only individual to feel that there was no other option on that day. Research from the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)* suggests an average of 18 people die from suicide every day in the UK. It is still upsetting to hear that people believe there isn’t someone to confide in.

999 For the Suicidal

Back in 1953, Chad Varah decided to open an emergency helpline for people to call if they felt suicidal. At the time, this service was publicised across London, with Chad and his secretary answering all calls. Their role was simply to listen and to keep the information shared in confidence and this was the start of the Samaritans.

Within a year, there were over 50 volunteers and a second branch had opened in Edinburgh. Now the UK has over 200 branches and more than 22,000 volunteers responding to calls, emails and web enquiries, but the fundamental approach is the same; listen without judgement.

On 24th July, The Samaritans raises awareness of its 24/7 service. We should all know that, if we reach a point of crisis, there is someone who will listen. That person is a stranger, removed from the situation. They will not give advice or share their experiences, but they will listen with empathy.

For millions of people, The Samaritans helpline has helped to reduce feelings of isolation. Being listened to is a powerful sign of respect and validation. It can be calming and cathartic; helping them to process their thoughts. It can’t possibly resolve all issues, but having someone who listened, who cared and who connected at a time of need has saved many lives.

Suicide Prevention Planning

In addition to listening, the Samaritans takes an active role in suicide prevention strategies. They recently worked in collaboration with the University of Exeter to research suicide prevention planning across English local authorities*.

They identified that over 92% of councils had a plan which included key issues including:

  • Preventing self-harm
  • Reducing the risk of suicide in men
  • Addressing suicide risk in children & young people
  • Bereavement support

This is a positive start, however, the level to which actions were being taken on the plan was variable. Cuts to council budgets were recognised as one barrier to action. The Samaritans recommends ambitious leadership, resources and guidance, along with ring-fenced funding, are required to scale up implementation.

Workplace Awareness of Suicide Prevention (WASP) UK

Many other organisations are playing an active role in challenging the stigma of suicide and promoting suicide prevention strategies. One of those is WASP UK, of which I am a founding member. Our focus is on the workplace.

WASP UK aims to reduce work-related suicide by lobbying the Government to make it mandatory for all organisations to have a suicide prevention policy. We believe that by embedding the guiding principles of a suicide prevention policy, organisations can build awareness, change attitudes and improve access to support. Collectively, businesses can give people options and hope.

We all spend so much of our day at work, so knowledge of appropriate responses and resources can play a powerful role in saving lives.

To aid companies to engage in our mission, we have created a free, downloadable suicide prevention policy. This template can be amended to best fit your organisation and can form the starting point for discussions on how to implement processes. I invite you to download and use this WASP UK resource*** in your business.

Sources of Support in Times of Crisis

To conclude this article, let me share some options if you or someone you know has reached a point of crisis.

Samaritans 24/7 helpline: 116 123 https://www.samaritans.org/

CALM 5pm to midnight 365 days a year: 0800 585858 https://www.thecalmzone.net/

Papyrus 9am to midnight for under 35-year-olds: 0800 068 4141 https://www.papyrus-uk.org/

All provide services for free and all ensure their volunteers are fully trained to provide a confidential, non-judgemental service with empathy, so don’t be afraid to get in touch.

 

* https://www.thecalmzone.net/thelastphoto-gallery/the-facts

** https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/national-local-suicide-prevention-strategies/

*** https://mailchi.mp/cf20450718d2/wasp-suicide-prevention-policy