World Suicide Prevention Day 2020
The theme of World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September) is ‘working together to prevent suicide’. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 800,000 people across the globe take their own lives each year – that equates to one death every 40 seconds.
While talking about suicide is a lot more accepted than it used to be, when it was often ‘brushed under the carpet’, there can still be a certain stigma around the subject. This means it can be difficult for people to open up when they’re struggling.
So what could you do if you’re worried that someone you know might be considering suicide, or if a friend or family member has reached out to you for help? If you’re happy to talk to them and offer support, the first step is to try and find out where they’re at.
Start a conversation. The aim is to get them talking, give them permission to explore how they feel, and establish whether they want or need help. Don’t be afraid that broaching the topic might put ideas in their head: this won’t trigger any suicidal thoughts, but it could prevent someone following through with them.
Ask what sort of help they’d like at this moment. Some people will just want to be listened to, while others will need help with solving a problem, or with accessing some kind of formal support or treatment.
Think about the best course of action. It’s important to remember that it’s not your responsibility to provide a solution, but you may well be able to help someone find the right avenue of support. This might involve simply finding an appropriate helpline number and encouraging them to call it.
Many of us will have had thoughts like ‘I can’t take this any more’ or ‘It would be easier if I wasn’t here’. These can pop into our head when we’re tired and stressed, or can be a symptom of depression. They’re usually just fleeting thoughts, and we don’t intend to act on them. If this is the case with the person you’re talking to – or they’re struggling, but you don’t believe they’re in immediate danger – you could encourage them to make an appointment with their GP to discuss the difficulties that led to the thoughts, and possible treatments.
Sometimes suicidal thoughts will have been triggered by a specific problem or crisis someone is facing. This can happen if they’ve never experienced mental health difficulties before. In this case, suicide may feel like the only solution. For example, nearly a quarter of people who attempted suicide last year were in problem debt, according to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.
You could suggest exploring options for solving their problems together – you might be able to bring a fresh perspective, and help them focus on taking practical steps. Someone who’s in debt might benefit from speaking to Citizens Advice, for instance.
If the person you’re helping tells you they’ve made a plan to end their life, or you suspect that’s the case, this needs addressing more urgently. Try and get them to make an emergency appointment with their GP, or call the NHS 111 number.
If they are extremely agitated or distressed, or you think there’s a risk they’ll take action to end their life, you should call 999 or contact their crisis team directly if they are already with a secondary mental health service.
Not all suicides can be prevented, however hard we try. Some people display no signs at all that they’re having suicidal thoughts. Others won’t talk about it in case someone tries to stops them. If this happens, we should never blame ourselves.
Helping someone who is suicidal can be incredibly difficult, and could have a major impact on you. You might find you need support, too. These resources from the Samaritans and the NHS might come in useful. If you’re left feeling anxious and down, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might help you manage how you’re feeling.
Useful helpline numbers:
Samaritans Call 116 123 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day Visit the webchat page
Papyrus – for people under 35 Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 9am-10pm, weekends and bank holidays 2pm-10pm Text 07860 039967 Email email@example.com
Childline – for children and young people under 19 Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on the phone bill