We are now three quarters of the way through National Suicide Prevention Month 2020, although for the significant number of us whose lives have been touched by suicide at some point, it is a subject that never really goes away; it is however, one of the more challenging subjects to actually raise and talk about.
The Samaritans report that there were 6507 suicides in the UK in 2018, which was a 10.9% rise on the previous year. Men are statistically three times more likely to die by suicide than women, with the highest risk group being between the ages of 45 and 49, although the rate of under 25s completing suicide is also a substantial concern, with the rate of females in this age group dying by suicide being at its highest rate in the UK in 2019 – a rise of 93.8% since 2012.
Whilst these figures are important and certainly give an insight into the prevalence of suicide in our communities, we must never forget the real people who contribute to the statistics. What leads an individual to consider suicide is a complex and personal set of circumstances, but the majority do not actually want to die; they just do not want to live the life that they are currently living.
What is important for us all to know is that we can make a difference. There are things that we can do to help and support those feeling suicidal, and a variety of support networks and agencies that can be accessed to. There are some common signs that an individual may be feeling suicidal, although these are by no means exhaustive or definite, and the most important indicators of all are your gut instinct and listening to what the person is telling you.
Possible indicators of suicidal feelings:
- Tiredness and lethargy.
- Anger and irritability.
- Lack of interest in things previously found stimulating.
- Sense of hopelessness and/or worthlessness.
- Lack of routine.
- Unusual risk-taking behaviours.
- Use of coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol.
The most important thing that any of us can do to help a person feeling suicidal is to reach out, talk and listen. Often those contemplating suicide will not instigate discussion with others about how they are feeling because they do not feel that they matter enough. However, if they know that you are comfortable addressing the subject and starting the conversation, they are much more likely to open up to you.
Advice for having the conversation
Make sure you are ready. Have enough time for the conversation and try to hold it in a comfortable space where you can talk openly. Focus on the person, avoid distractions and don’t rush them.
Use active listening skills. The person is likely to feel negatively about themselves, so it is important to show them that what they are feeling matters. Let them talk and show that you are listening by asking relevant questions that encourage more of a response than yes or no.
If they are not ready to talk right now, be patient but let them know that you care and are there for them. Don’t be put off trying again.
Don’t be afraid to use the word suicide. You won’t be giving the other person ideas or making things worse; using the word helps to take away the stigma and shows that you can manage this honest conversation.
Always call an ambulance straight away if you believe that the person is in immediate danger. This is the quickest way to get the person the level of care that they require.
The Samaritans can also be contacted free of charge 24/7 on 116 123 and provide a confidential listening service.
Healthwatch Essex Information and Signposting Team can provide you with details of mental health and suicide support services local to you. Contact us by telephone on 0300 500 1895, text on 07712395398, email [email protected] or use our new live chat facility by clicking the red button on our homepage. We are here to listen and help you find a way through your health, social care and wellbeing needs.
Now, more than ever, we need to be mindful of the mental health and wellbeing of ourselves and others.
Information & Signposting Lead