World Suicide Prevention Day 2020

September 10, 2020

Across the globe, someone will take their own life every 40 seconds, and this year, the World Health Organisation estimates that could increase to 1 every 20 seconds. 

How many of these deaths could be prevented if individuals either have access to community services or feel able to speak up earlier on about how they were feeling? Before whatever issue those feelings stem from is able to take hold? 

The idea behind World Suicide Prevention Day is to raise awareness, commit to change and to take actions that begin to improve education around and understanding of how we can help to change that opening statistic.  

Firstly, we need to relinquish the idea that dealing with suicidal ideation is purely the responsibility of health professionals and charities 

Yes, in a crisis situation you should absolutely still call 999 or a local Crisis Intervention Team.  

However, when it comes to intervening prior to that point, it’s the responsibility of all of us that are able, to be aware of some warning signs and to do our best to support friends and family that are struggling. It can often be difficult to recognise when someone may be straying close to the edge, and often when someone close to us takes their life we think that we should have known, we analyse every interaction and thing they said and convince ourselves that we should have picked up on something. But we can’t spend our lives constantly assessing people’s behaviour on the basis that they might be considering suicide.  

What we need to do instead is foster an environment and communities that allow people to feel able to ask for help. Just 10 or 15 minutes every couple of weeks or so to sit with or call your friends and ask about how each other is getting on, what you’ve been up to and how you’re feeling about things. This helps to create that open culture and normalise discussing emotions. (Guys I’m talking about you!)  

If you can pick up issues when they begin, we can work through that problem before it has a chance to grow.  

This point highlights the importance of early intervention services and being able to access them. Over 75% of suicides occur in low income areas, often with insufficient access to statutory services. Private therapy or counselling can be pricey and this is often a huge barrier to people being able to engage with them. Local charities do their best to bridge the gap, triage and signpost to appropriate services, but often lack resources to keep up with demand. Every area is different, and you should check what is available to you and the people around you.  

Some Potential Warning Signs: 

  • Withdrawing from a lot of social contact and wanting to be left alone 
  • A drastic variation in mood, such as being emotionally high one day and very subdued the next 
  • A preoccupation with death, dying or violence 
  • Statements about feeling trapped or hopeless 
  • An increase in use of alcohol or drugs 
  • Changes to routine such as eating or sleep pattern 
  • Risky or self-destructive behaviours such as using drugs dangerously or driving recklessly  
  • Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there is no apparent explanation for this 
  • Personality changes such as severe anxiety or agitation 
  • Saying goodbye to people as if they wont be seen again or getting upset when saying goodbye for no logical reason  

We can’t recognise every sign; even mental health professionals may not pick up on suicidal ideation if the individual is intent on completion and doesn’t want to reveal their intentions. However, most people will try to ask for help. Not with words, but through actions and behaviours.  

If you are worried about someone, don’t push them to discuss something if they’re obviously very upset or uncomfortable. However, you should ask direct questions if you can.  

  • How are you coping with what’s been happening? 
  • Do you feel like giving up?  
  • Are you thinking of hurting yourself? 
  • Are you considering suicide? 
  • Have you thought about how you’d do it?  

While a “Yes” response to these questions doesn’t necessarily mean someone is at imminent risk of suicide, they are obviously an indicator that something is amiss and the person is willing to acknowledge they need help.  

If a suicidal plan is disclosed and the person has the means to act, assume that the risk is imminent and act immediately; dial 999 or 111 (UK First Response Service) and ask for option 2. Don’t put yourself at personal risk, especially if this person is not well-known to you, but do ensure that help is sought straightaway. 

If the person is having suicidal thoughts but has no active plan, signpost appropriate help (GP, Counselling, Helplines) and establish who they can speak to for immediate support (friends, family, colleagues). Isolation is an important risk-factor in suicidality.   

If you do help someone who is feeling suicidal, remember you too may need support. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, these are just a handful of services available: 

Crisis Response and Home Treatment Team IoM (CRHTT) – +44 1624 642860 

Samaritans – 116 123 (free) or 0330 094 5717 (local charges) 

Emergency Services  999 

SANEline – 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day) 

SHOUT – Text: SHOUT to 85258 (free 24/7)  

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