Every 40 seconds someone somewhere in the world dies by suicide.
Men accounted for three-quarters of UK deaths by suicide in 2018, yet since 2012, the suicide rate for females under 25 has increased by 93.8 per cent. And tragically, the rate of suicide in the last quarter of 2019 hit a 19-year high, at 11.4 deaths per 100,000 people.
Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, friends and communities with long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide is a serious public health problem – but it is preventable.
Each year, World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September) focusses on raising awareness of suicide prevention and the theme for 2020 is ‘Working together to prevent suicide’.
Who is at risk?
While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-ups or chronic pain and illness.
In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, loss, or a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour. Suicide rates are also high among vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) persons; and prisoners. By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.
Signs that someone might not be OK:
- Feeling angry and aggressive
- Feeling tearful
- Isolating or not wanting to be with people
- Not replying to messages or being distant
- Talking about feelings of hopelessness or being worthless
You might not always be able to spot these signs, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic as emotions may be more difficult to spot if you’re seeing less of people.
So it can also be useful to identify circumstances which can trigger suicidal thoughts or make it hard for someone to cope:
- Loss or trauma, including the loss of a friend or a family member
- Relationship or family problems
- Housing worries
- Financial worries
- Loneliness and isolation
- Painful and/or disabling physical illness
- Heavy use of or dependency on alcohol or other drugs
What to do if you think someone is struggling:
Many people worry that trying to help may be deemed intrusive or that it might make things worse. You’ll soon be able to tell if the person you’re speaking to isn’t comfortable or doesn’t want to have that kind of conversation. If they don’t want to open up, you should still let them know you’re there for them.
Once someone starts to share how they’re feeling, it’s important to listen. This could mean not offering advice, not trying to identify what they’re going through and not trying to solve their problems.
S – Show you care, focus on the other person, make eye contact and put away your phone
H – Have patience; it may take time and several attempts before a person is ready to open up
U – Use open questions that need more than a yes/no answer, and follow them up with sentences like “tell me more…”
S – Say it back, check you’ve understood, but don’t interrupt or offer a solution
H – Have courage, don’t be put off by a negative response and, most importantly, don’t feel you have to fill a silence.
If you’re worried someone is suicidal, it’s OK to ask them directly. Research shows that this helps because it gives them permission to tell you how they feel, and shows that they are not a burden.
The BHSF Connect app is a useful tool for 24/7 immediate support. The ‘Confidential Helpline’ feature is just one way in which you can get the support you might need. If you feel you need to speak to someone simply click ‘Call the helpline’ to reach one of our confidential telephone counselling services. Or you can call them on 0800 206 2579. This support isn’t limited to just you; other adults in your immediate household can use it too.
Further help is available. If you, a loved one, a friend or a colleague are struggling, you can get in touch with one of the following free helplines:
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 to 10pm, weekends and bank holidays 2pm to 10pm
Text 07860 039967
E-mail [email protected]
Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on your phone bill
Anxiety UK – www.anxietyuk.org.uk
Mental Health Foundation – www.mentalhealth.org.uk
Mind – www.mind.org.uk
Relate – www.relate.org.uk
Alcoholics Anonymous – www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk