Suicide: a complex subject

Where to turn for a helping hand

September 10th is Suicide Prevention Day and all of September is devoted to suicide awareness and prevention.

Globally, c.800,000 people a year die by suicide.

Since 2013, Great Britain has seen a gradual decline in the number of people dying by suicide, but from 2017, numbers have started to grow and are expected to continue to increase.

Evidence suggests that men are three times more at risk of dying by suicide than women; both men and women between 45 and 49 are most at risk. The rate of younger people (under the age of 25) dying by suicide has been increasing in recent years.

Why suicide?

There is no one reason why individuals may experience thoughts about suicide. People think about suicide for a variety different reasons - and no thought or reason is more valid than the next. Suicide can happen to anyone and, behind each suicide, is an often-complex story including social, psychological and cultural factors such as:

  • Difficult life events in the past or current life changing events such as trauma, a relationship breakdown or the death of a loved one
  • Substance misuse
  • Social isolation
  • Financial/workplace/home difficulties
  • Underlying mental or physical health conditions such as chronic pain, depression, schizophrenia, or those resulting in disability.

People experiencing thoughts of suicide may also have thoughts that they have let themselves or others down, that nobody cares about them, that they are a burden or a failure, that there is no point in living, or that they will never find a solution to their problems.

What can I do to help?

Asking somebody how they are feeling can sometimes be enough to break a thought pattern focussed on suicide; this is something we can all do.

We should pay attention to the wellbeing of others, whether they be family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances or strangers.

If you are worried that someone may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, talk to them: ask them about how they are feeling. You can help someone who is feeling suicidal simply by listening to them without judgement; listening can sometimes be more powerful than talking.

You can use the WAIT method to help:

  • Watch out for signs of distress and uncharacteristic behaviour .
  • Ask how the individual is feeling.
  • It will pass: assure the individual that, with help, their current feelings will pass and with time, they will start to feel better again.
  • Talk to others: encourage the individual to seek help from a GP but do not force them to do so; this may lead to them feeling uncomfortable and less likely to share their feelings. Speak to somebody about how you are feeling if needed.

Getting help

If you are concerned about your own, or someone else’s, thoughts of suicide, you should contact the emergency services if you believe there may be an immediate risk to life.  If no immediate risk to life is present, speaking with a GP is likely to be beneficial; they will be able to discuss the services and treatments available. Other sources of support include:

  • Samaritans: 24/7 support for anyone in distress - 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org
  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) support 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.  Tel: 0800 58 58 58.  Calm also offers support for those affected by suicide. See www.thecalmzone.net/help/get-help/support-after-suicide/
  • Papyrus: support for the under 35s between of 9am-10pm M-F and 2pm-10pm weekends/bank holidays.  Tel: 0800 068 41 41 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org
  • Childline: support for those under 19.  Tel: 0800 11 11 (doesn’t show up on phone bill).
  • Support after suicide partnership: advice /support for those impacted by suicide.  See: www.supportaftersuicide.org.uk/
  • YoungMinds Parents Helpline: support for parents concerned about the emotional wellbeing of a child/young person up to 25.  M-F 9.30am-4pm. Tel: 0808 802 5544.