October 10th is World Mental Health Day

The theme this year is working together to prevent suicide

The stark numbers:

  • In the UK, deaths by suicide rose by 11.2% in the UK in 2018, significantly higher than in 2017, due mainly to increases in male suicide; 75% of suicides were in men.
  • Scotland had the highest suicide rate followed by Wales.
  • In the UK, the highest suicide rate is among men aged 45-49. For women, the age group with the highest rate was also 45 to 49 years.
  • The rate of deaths among under 25s has increased in recent years.

To help those with suicidal thoughts, where do you start? What do you say? Who do you talk to? How do you make it more than a one-off?

Take 40 seconds

What can you do? If you are struggling, take 40 seconds to kickstart a conversation with someone you trust about how you are feeling. To help others...

The IASP suggests that listening with compassion, empathy and without judgement can help restore hope. We can check in with them, ask them how they are doing and encourage them to tell their story. This small gesture goes a long way. So:

  • Take a minute to notice what is going on with you, your family, your friends and your colleagues.
  • Take a minute to reach out and start a conversation if you notice something is different.
  • Take a minute to find out what help is available for both you and others.

How to help - starting the difficult conversation: the Samaritans (www.Samaritans.org or 116 123) have some excellent tips on how to speak to someone who you suspect may be feeling suicidal - and where to get help. If you’re worried about someone, try to get them to talk to you:

  • Often people want to talk, but they wait until someone asks how they are. Try asking open questions, like ‘What happened about...’, ‘Tell me about...’, ‘How do you feel about...’
  • Repeat back what they say to show you understand and ask more questions.
  • Focus on your friend’s feelings instead of trying to solve the problem - it can be of more help and shows you care.
  • Respect what they tell you. Sometimes it’s easy to want to try and fix a person’s problems, or give them advice. Let them make their own decisions.

How do I start a conversation with someone I’m concerned about? You might feel you don’t know how to help someone, because you don’t know what to tell them or how to solve their problems.

You don’t need to be an expert. In fact, sometimes people who think they have the answers to a problem are less helpful. Don’t forget that every person is different, so that what worked for one will not always work for another:

  • Find a good time and place: think about where and when to have the conversation before you start.
  • Choose somewhere where the other person feels comfortable and has time to talk.
  • Ask gentle questions, and listen with care. You might feel that you don’t know how to help someone, because you don’t know what to tell them. But you shouldn’t tell them anything. Telling doesn’t help.
  • The best way to help is to ask questions. That way, you leave the other person in control. By asking questions, the person you are talking with fnds his/her/their own answers. The more open the question the better.

What sort of questions should I ask?

Questions that help someone talk through their problems instead of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are the most useful. Questions like:

  • When – ‘When did you realise?’
  • Where – ‘Where did that happen?’
  • What – ‘What else happened?’
  • How – ‘How did that feel?’
  • Why – be careful with this one as it can make someone defensive. ‘What made you choose that’ or ‘What were you thinking about at the time’ are more effective.

If you or your friends need help...

Fortunately, there is lots of help out there if you or your pal are struggling. These include:

  • Samaritans (by phone on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.
  • NHS 111 offers health advice in the UK and is free from landlines and mobiles.
  • You or they can contact your/their GP for an emergency appointment or the out of hours team.
  • You/they can contact their local crisis team.

Respect what your friend tells you, don’t pressure them: if they don’t want help, don’t push them.

Sometimes it’s easy to want to try and fix a person’s problems, or give them advice. It’s usually better for people to make their own decisions. Help them think of all the options, but leave the choice to them. Being there for them in other ways, e.g. through socialising or helping with practical things. These can also be a great source of support.

If you say the wrong thing, don’t panic. There is no perfect way to handle a difficult conversation, so don’t be too hard on yourself if it didn’t go as well as you had hoped. If you feel able to, put things right: ‘Last week I said … and I realise now that was insensitive so I’m sorry. What I meant to say was …’.

Show you understand: ask follow-up questions and repeat back the key things your friend has told you, using phrases like ‘So you’re saying…’, ‘So you think…’ Look after yourself and talk to someone too. Hearing someone else’s worries or problems can affect you too.
Take time for yourself to do the things you enjoy and if you need to talk, find somebody you trust to confide in.
Be careful not to make promises to people you may not be able to keep; this could relate to someone telling
you they are experiencing abuse. Don’t take on so much of other peoples’ problems that you yourself start
feeling depressed.
Getting help in an emergency - if you are feeling suicidal:
If you don’t feel you can keep yourself safe right now, seek immediate help:
• Go to any hospital A&E department.
• Call 999 and ask for an ambulance if you can’t get to A&E.
• Ask someone else to contact 999 for you or take you to A&E immediately.

Worried about someone else?

Check out www.mind.org.uk or www.Samaritans.org.

Get top tips and advice

Take the Every Mind Matters Quiz