The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) have long campaigned to raise awareness for suicide, and the work that we can all do to support those with suicidal thoughts.
September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day – and I truly believe that we can all do our part to raise awareness of the impact that suicide can have, not only on those who struggle with those thoughts and who perhaps attempt to take their own lives, but also on those who are supporting suicidal or victims of suicide.
There are a lot of misconceptions about suicide – and it’s so important that we all speak more openly and honestly about how those dark thoughts can impact lives, and how mental health challenges as a whole are universal; ill mental health can impact anyone, no matter their circumstances.
Some statistics about suicide
Recent years have shown an increase in the number of deaths from suicide – not only in the UK but globally.
In the UK men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women; this raises to four times more likely in the Republic of Ireland. The highest suicide rate for men by age is in the 45-49 bracket across the UK and, on average, 13 men will take their own lives every day in the UK.
In young people, particularly in the under 25 range, the most recent statistics show an increase of almost 24% in the rate of deaths by suicide; this is a huge, and very worrying, climb which shows that young people are under incredible pressure – and this is a concern we need to address more directly. In Scotland this figure is an even more concerning 52.7% – the highest it has been for many years.
Why do we have a Suicide Prevention day?
Some question whether a day focused on speaking about suicide will ‘plant the idea’ – but as counselling and psychology professionals, we know that speaking honestly about those thoughts allows people to feel less alone and overwhelmed, and find support and tools to find a way through them, rather than acting on them.
Suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally, for people of all ages and from all backgrounds.
This means that every 40 seconds, another person takes their own life.
These deaths don’t just impact the victim, but also their family, friends, colleagues, loved ones; the impact is wide reaching and life long. In fact, for every death by suicide, an average of 135 people are impacted and suffer with grief, guilt and associated trauma.
When you see that this means over 108 million people per year are profoundly impacted by suicide, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide and suicidal ideation, we have to recognise that this is a significant and avoidable amount of trauma which, with honest and open discourse, we can reduce significantly.
What are the signs someone might be suicidal?
There are a lot of signs, and most important to know is that any threats of suicide or voicing suicidal statements should be taken very seriously.
Signs that you should look out for and be aware of include:
- Excessive sadness, moodiness or mood swings
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Suddenly very calm after a period of depression
- Withdrawal from social activities and work commitments
- Unusual changes in personality or appearance
- Risky behaviour
- Self harming
- Recent trauma or crisis
- Making preparations or ‘putting life in order’
- Threatening or talking about suicide
This is not a comprehensive list, and if you notice any concerning changes in someone you care about please don’t hold back from asking if they are ok, if they need support, or reaching out to a body or person you think could intervene for their protection.
What if I have suicidal thoughts?
One of the biggest dangers of suicidal thoughts is that, when we are in a dark place mentally, they can seem like an entirely logical solution to overwhelming feelings. The despair a person feels can entirely isolate them from their loved ones and avenues to support – so it’s important to check in on people and, when you find yourself in that frame of mind, to recognise that it will pass, and that it isn’t a true representation of our circumstances.
Reaching out to loved ones and friends can help – but it can also be very difficult.
There are a number of helplines which can be called free of charge if you are having suicidal thoughts:
Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the webchat page HERE
Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 9am to 10pm, weekends and bank holidays 2pm to 10pm
Text 07860 039967
Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on your phone bill
Get through today one breath at a time
If you are struggling today, here are some tips to move through the crisis:
- Concentrate on right now, not on the future
- Don’t make any plans to act on the impulse
- Avoid drugs, alcohol or any mood impacting substances
- Go to a safe place – this could be your own bedroom, a friend’s house, a crisis centre etc
- Talk to someone – a friend, family member, helpline or professional
- Be around other people – if socialising feels too overwhelming, simply being in public can help
- Engage in an activity you find soothing – watch a film, read a book, do a craft, go for a walk
- Spend time with a pet if you have one
- List positive things in your life; avoid falling into a negative list, focus on the good things
- Do something which relaxes you – walk in nature, take a bubble bath, meditate
You may well have felt this way before – and you know that it passes, even though it may not seem that way in the moment.
Help is available
Whether you have previously experienced professional support or not, there is no shame or barrier to accessing help when you are struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Whether you choose to call one of the helplines included above, your own GP, a family member or a counselling professional, you deserve and are worthy of help and support.
You do not need to battle these thoughts and fears alone – and there is nothing you can think or say which will prevent you from accessing or deserving this help.
If you would like to speak to me and work together on creating a crisis strategy, a wellness plan and work through the issues or incidents which may have caused your suicidal thoughts, please reach out to me through this website, via phone (call, text or WhatsApp on 07849 037095) or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on World Suicide Prevention Day and how you can help loved ones who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, visit the IASP website https://www.iasp.info/wspd2020/