10 September is World Suicide Prevention Day. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) was started it in 2003 and is co-sponsored by the World Federation for Mental Health and World Health Organisation (WHO).
Suicide is a growing problem in the world and especially amongst the under 30s. The statistics are truly frightening. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every 40 seconds someone successfully takes their own life. That equates to approximately 800,000 people every year (globally) or one in a hundred of every death. And for each successful suicide it is estimated that there are 40 attempted suicides. The sad thing is, as Phil Donahue (US media personality) put it, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. Suicide is largely preventable as undiagnosed, or untreated, mental illness is the largest contributor to it.
Each suicide is a tragic waste of life and devastating, sometimes life changing, to those left behind. So, by raising awareness, addressing the stigma around suicide and encouraging well-informed action, it is hoped that the instances of suicide around the world can be reduced. World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to do these things and reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts. There are five key messages:
1. Creating hope through action. This is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide. Our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling. Through action, you can make a difference to someone (as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbour) in their darkest moments. We can all play a part in supporting those experiencing a suicidal crisis or those bereaved by it.
2. Suicidal thoughts are complex. The causes of suicide are complex and many. There is no one size fits all approach. We know that certain life events can make someone more vulnerable to suicide. Also mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression can also be a contributor. People who are suicidal can feel trapped or a burden to their family and those around them and thus they feel as though they are alone and have no other options. The COVID-19 Pandemic has greatly contributed to increased feelings of isolation and vulnerability. By Creating Hope Through Action, we can signal to people experiencing these thoughts that there is hope and that we care and want to support them.
3. You can help give someone hope by showing that you care. We can all play a role, no matter how small. You do not need to tell them what to do or have solutions, just make the time and space to listen to them. Small talk can save lives and create a sense of connection and hope in somebody who may be struggling.
4. Stigma is a major barrier to help-seeking. I have written before battling stigma and prejudice around all forms of mental illness. Changing the narrative around suicide through the promotion of hope will help to create a more compassionate society where those who need help feel comfortable in coming forward.
5. The insights and stories of people with a lived experience of suicide. Personal stories of someone’s experiences of emotional distress, suicidal thoughts or attempts, and their experiences in recovery can inspire hope in others. It illustrates that they too can move through the period of crisis. Also, individuals sharing experiences of being bereaved by suicide and how they came to live their ‘new normal’, can help others experiencing suicidal loss make sense of their devastation and believe they will be able to live through and with the loss.
So, if you know someone who make be anxious, depressed or suicidal help them to get the professional assistance they need. And be an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.