It’s World Suicide Prevention Day, but did you know, in the time it took you to read the headline and click this post, someone in the world took their own life, that’s because statistics show that around the world, someone commits suicide every 40 seconds.
In the UK, a person commits suicide every 90 minutes. Last year, more than 6,000 people took their own lives in the UK and Republic of Ireland, with men being three times more likely to take their own lives compared to women.
Suicide remains the biggest killer in the UK of people under the age of 35. It takes the lives of more people than car crashes and cancer. Suicide doesn’t discriminate either, it doesn’t matter what walk of life a person comes from or their religion, sexuality, race etc, it can affect anyone. But suicide is preventable. Help is available to anyone thinking of ending their life and for them to know they’re not alone.
The purpose of this day is to raise awareness around the world that suicide is preventable and that people can help others in their fight. While there are many numbers a person can call for support, it’s important to note that it can be a struggle for people to admit they need help, or they often feel like they’ve run out of options or simply don’t have the energy to reach out and get help.
Family and friends can play a huge role in helping someone get the help they need. We all have a role to play in ensuring that those who do suffer feel less afraid to reach out and get the support they need in the moments when they need it the most.
There’s still a stigma around mental illness, with many people still not sure how to approach or support someone suffering from it. Some people with mental illness will also try to hide the fact they’re suffering, men, in particular, are often told to ‘man-up’ which makes it difficult for them to ask for help from family and friends, but this needs to end. It’s not just men that turn to suicide, statistics have also revealed that 1 in 7 deaths by suicide are new mothers and they are all preventable.
As this day marks awareness for suicide, take a look at your closest family and friends and think to yourself, would you notice if they weren’t quite themselves? Would you check up on them if they seemed a little ‘off’? Would you make an effort to reach out to them to make sure they’re OK?
While they seem like very simple things, someone who seems a little ‘off’ may be suffering from a mental illness. Someone who doesn’t seem quite like themselves could be secretly battling depression on their own and when the battle gets too much, they could turn to suicide for relief.
As we’ve said previously, people who are suicidal don’t often advertise it, therefore we ask people to take note of subtle changes that may indicate they need help. The key signs to watch for in friends and family can include, but are not limited to:
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Major changes in sleep patterns- not sleeping at all or wanting to sleep all the time
- Loss of energy
- Lack of interest in appearance or personal hygiene
- Increase in minor illnesses
- Changes in eating habits- Increased appetite or loss of appetite
- Loss of interest in sex
- Isolating themselves more and more
- Daydreaming more or losing focus easily
- Disappearing without telling anyone
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Losing interest in previous activities and hobbies
- Breaking the law or fighting
- Self-harming or previous suicidal behaviour
- Uncharacteristic risk-taking or recklessness
- Emotional outbursts
- Unexplained crying
- Putting affairs in order (Selling or giving away possessions)
- Writing suicide notes
- Internet searches about suicide
Spotting signs in conversation
The way people speak can indicate their feelings towards life as a whole, especially if they’re perspective is different from who they once were. They may not directly say they need help, but certain things people say can indicate something is amiss and that they may need help:
- No future “what’s the point? Things never get better”
- Helpless “Nothing helps, it’s hopeless”
- Damaged “I’ll never be the same again”
- Escape “I can’t take this anymore”
- Guilt “It’s all my fault”
- Alone “No-one cares about me”
- Openly talking about suicide or planning a suicide
When suicide comes to mind, there’s a stigma that a person must just be ‘sad’, this isn’t the case whatsoever.
People may turn to suicide for a number of reasons. This can include them feeling out of control, hopeless, guilty and many other reasons. Trying to spot how someone is feeling can be very difficult, for example, if a person is presenting anger as their main symptom. Many people will naturally withdraw from that person without realising this can indicate a mental health problem.
Everyone has a flight or fight response when they’re faced with danger or difficult situations. Some people with mental health problems often feel like they’re losing control and this triggers this response, instead of the ‘flight’ response, they can go into ‘fight’, which means they can become increasingly angry and offensive to someone who hasn’t done anything wrong. It’s important for people to understand that this isn’t their fault and while it’s natural to feel like getting away from it- especially if you’re receiving insults, this person could be showing you a huge sign that they need help.
Other feelings that may present are:
You know your family and friends better than most, therefore, you may be able to spot the signs before it’s too late. Approaching someone that may be suicidal can also be difficult as it’s hard to know what to say, therefore, we’ve added some questions that may help.
Starting a conversion
- I’m worried about you as you’ve not seemed like yourself recently
- I’ve noticed some changes within you, is everything OK?
- You’ve not seemed yourself lately, would you like to talk about it?
Questions you can ask
- What can I do to help?
- Do you want to talk about it?
- Do you have any support?
- I’m here for you whenever you need to talk
- Can I help with anything? (i.e kids, chores etc to ease pressure)
Things to avoid
While there are many things that can help someone with a mental illness, there’s also things that you should avoid.
People are often judgemental and like to offer advice which can actually make someone feel worse. Not understanding their condition or calling someone ‘selfish’ for considering suicide is wrong. Saying something like ‘you need to stay alive as everyone around you will be upset’ is like saying ‘you need to continue feeling this low and live with how your feeling and the pain so you don’t upset anyone’.
Another common thing people say is ‘look at what you have’ or ‘think of your children’. This will often make a person feel worse and can add to the guilt. When someone gets to that point of suicide, if they have kids, they’ve often convinced themselves that their kids are better off without them and that they no longer have a purpose in this world, therefore it’s important to LISTEN to a person instead of offering poor advice.
When listening to someone, sit and let them talk as much as they need to. If it feels out of your depth, that’s OK and it’s OK to tell the person suffering that as well, as they may not understand what is happening either.
At this point, take a step back and look at the situation from a different point of view and make a logical assessment based on the information they have provided. Offer to help them get support and talk to the right people (i.e support lines or doctors etc).
Take a moment before replying to assess how to respond to what they’re saying, don’t say ‘you’ll be fine’ or ‘you need help’, instead say ‘you won’t always feel this way, I’ll help you get the support you need and I’ll be here for you every step of the way, you’re not alone’.
When we say ‘you’re not alone’, this doesn’t mean a person is surrounded by friends and family and that means they’ll be OK. It means that you make sure the person suffering knows that you understand so they don’t feel alone and lost in their thoughts. It’s the understanding from someone suffering with mental health that you can still connect with someone in the world, almost like an anchor.
If someone you know is considering suicide, or you’re thinking about it, there’s support available. The numbers below are for anyone thinking of suicide, or for anyone worried about a family member or friend.
Samaritans: 116 123
Mind: 0300 123 3393
CALM: 0800 585 858