This month is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month with World Suicide Prevention Day falling on September 10th. It’s during September each year that we, alongside many organisations and individuals, work to raise awareness around the subject of suicide, how to talk about it, and how to get help. Despite an increased willingness to talk about mental health issues during the COVID pandemic - and better access to mental health and wellbeing tools - suicide remains a difficult topic to discuss.
In the UK, 125 lives are lost every week to suicide. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 and 75% of all UK suicides are male. Suicidal thoughts and self-harm aren’t mental health diagnoses in themselves, but they are related to mental health. Over the course of someone’s lifetime:
- 1 in 5 people have suicidal thoughts
- 1 in 14 people self-harm
- 1 in 15 people attempt suicide
- Women are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and make suicide attempts than men. But men are three times more likely to take their own life than women
Women are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and make suicide attempts than men. But men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Suicide is complex and there is no single explanation of why people die by suicide. There are many different risk factors, including:
- Previous suicide attempts, or previous self-harm. Many people who self-harm don’t want to die. However, research shows that people who self-harm are at higher risk of attempting or dying by suicide
- Physical health problems, including chronic pain
- Living alone and/or loneliness
- Dependence on alcohol and/or drugs
- Experiencing mental health problems
The subject of suicide may seem overwhelming, but often a simple intervention can make all the difference. If a colleague or friend does share their suicidal feelings with you, it’s usually best to listen and respond with open questions, rather than advice or opinions. You don’t have to solve their problems: just offer support and encourage them to talk if you can.
Some of the signs you can look out for in others - or in yourself - which may indicate there is a suicide risk includes:
- Feeling hopeless or trapped
- Being tearful, anxious, or overwhelmed by negative thoughts
- Experiencing feelings of desperation
- Temptation to do risky or reckless things because they/you don’t care what happens to them/you
- Avoiding other people
To access further information and support for yourself or a colleague, friend, or family member, the Samaritans provide extensive online resources as well as their 24/7 helpline. Like other organisations that support those dealing with suicide, they recommend talking openly and honestly. One of the biggest myths about suicide is that if you talk about or ask someone about suicide directly (for example, “have you thought about killing yourself?”) then you’re “planting the seed” in their head. This is not true. Talking openly about suicide and creating a safe space for someone to open up about how they are feeling can often really help.
There is help available for anyone who is thinking about suicide or to support those who are trying to help someone thinking about suicide. These include:
- Samaritans. To talk about anything that is upsetting, anyone can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit some branches in person
- SANEline. If someone is experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, they can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day)
- National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK. Offers a supportive listening service to anyone with thoughts of suicide. Anyone can call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK on 0800 689 5652 (open 24/7)
- Papyrus. Papyrus support people under 35 who have thoughts of suicide and others who are concerned about them. They can be contacted on their HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967, or email email@example.com. They’re open every day from 9am to midnight
- CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) has a helpline (5pm – midnight) and webchat for anyone who’s having a tough time and needs to talk.
On average it takes 10 years before someone seeks mental health help or treatment. SilverCloud Health is an online mental health and wellbeing platform that connects people with tools and resources to help break down the barriers holding them back from living their best lives. If you’re interested in how SilverCloud Health can help, investigate whether your employer has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and if it offers behavioral or mental health assistance.
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