Suicide is a topic that can still illicit whispers and misunderstanding. However, it is a subject that more people need to discuss to raise awareness, knowledge and prevent deaths. Together, we can all work to prevent suicide.
Discussions around mental health have increased insurmountably in recent years, however, stigma and taboos still hold a grip on mental illness and suicidal thoughts or completing suicide.
In fact, one in five people will think about suicide at some point in their lives – with more than 6,000 people dying by suicide each year in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
During World Suicide Prevention Day, and beyond, how can we work together to prevent suicide?
“It’s vitally important that we remember suicide is not inevitable. The reasons behind suicide are complex,” emphasises Mairi Gordon who works with Samaritans, the charity committed to reduce feelings of isolation.
“It’s rarely possible to point to a single reason why someone chooses to take their own life. But we know there are some factors that can increase risk.”
Mental health does not discriminate, and neither do suicidal thoughts or tendencies. However, some societal factors can play a part as does living with a mental health condition or experiencing self-harm.
Similarly, relationship to financial worries can also put a greater strain on a person, who may in turn experience suicidal thoughts.
This is an incredibly dark and debilitating point in a person’s life, which can see someone reach crisis point. An isolating situation, we all need to work together to aid those experiencing suicidal thoughts.
“Preventing suicide is everyone’s business,” continues Mairi. “We believe addressing all the complex and overlapping factors that can affect someone’s wellbeing goes beyond any single service.
“We need health, care and emergency services, schools and colleges, charities and communities to all work together to make it easier for people to ask for and get help when they need it most.”
And this is the defining theme for this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day.
Working together to prevent suicide, a theme that can resonate with people across the world, it highlights the impact we can all have on an individual – no matter how small.
One way which we can limit the number of deaths by suicide is through open, honest discussions. To do this we need to remove the taboo.
“There is still a stigma associated with suicide and with mental health challenges more generally, which can make it difficult to ask for help,” says Mairi. “When we are struggling, we might find it hard to speak about what we’re feeling or we may feel embarrassed or worried about how others will respond.
“Similarly, when someone we know is struggling, we may want to speak to them about how they’re feeling, but worry about making it worse or saying the wrong thing.
“But, evidence shows that when we make time to talk and to really listen to someone who is struggling it can make a big difference – and even be lifesaving. That’s why Samaritans is encouraging people to reach out to family members, friends or co-workers who might be struggling.”
In a bid to ensure everyone in need of guidance can reach out, the Samaritans welcomes people coming in for face-to-face chats in a branch, phoning alongside currently piloting webchat to make it more accessible for people to get in touch.
Through opening up about our emotions and having a listening ear, we can save more people from completing suicide.
“It can be prevented and we can all play a part in that,” enthuses Mairi.
“Most people who feel suicidal do not actually want to die; they do not want to live the life they have. The distinction may seem small but it’s very important. It’s why talking through other options at the right time is so vital.
“We might not realise it, but we already have the skills to be there for someone who is struggling.”
If you are experiencing a mental health condition, feel as though you are not coping or are worried about thoughts of suicide: it’s time for you to reach out. Mairi advises: “It’s important to remember you’re not alone.”
TIME TO SHUSH
If you are concerned that someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can start a conversation using the Samaritans’ SHUSH listening tips.
SHOW YOU CARE and focus on the other person completely.
HAVE PATIENCE; it can take time to open up, so try not to rush the person you are worried about.
USE OPEN QUESTIONS and try to avoid yes or no answers. If this happens, follow up by asking them to tell you more.
SAY IT BACK. Repeating what the person has said to you will show you are listening, and can help you to understand how they are feeling.
HAVE COURAGE. Don’t feel you have to fill any silences, don’t worry about asking hard questions – the person will appreciate you are there for them. By giving the person time and space to share how they’re feeling you can help them take the next steps to getting help.