Due to it being Suicide Prevention Month and Suicide Prevention Day, I thought I’d share some information about the realities of suicide, warnings signs, what you can do, and a little about my personal experience.
The Reality Of Suicide
According to WHO, worldwide, it is estimated that 793,000 suicides took place in 2016. That might not seem like a lot, but during the same year, according to Our World in Data, 87,432 died of battle-related deaths in conflicts involving 1+ states. A figure that is also supported by Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), who reported a figure of 88,000 deaths. These figures highlight the scale of deaths by suicide in 2016 alone. A sobering thought.
In the Independent, they reported that the UK is experiencing a 16 year high when it comes to its suicide rate. The rise is largely due to an increase in men and boys taking their own lives. They report that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data states that 6,507 people took their own lives in 2018, up 12% in 2017. It also makes it the highest rate since 2002.
17 Suicide Warning Signs
- Suicidal ideation: thinking, talking, or writing about suicide, planning for suicide.
- Feeling like they’re a burden.
- Engaging in substance abuse.
- Feeling like they lack purpose.
- Anxiety or agitation.
- Sleep disturbance, either sleeping too much or not very much, if at all.
- Feelings of being trapped.
- Feeling hopelessness.
- Problems at work or with their studies.
- Withdrawing from family, friends, and society.
- Anger or rage.
- Mood changes including depression.
- Feeling uselessness.
- Settling outstanding affairs.
- Giving away prized or valuable possessions.
- Making amends when they are otherwise not expected to die.
For more information about suicide and mental health, check out my previous post, Mental Health: The Figures.
5 Things You Can Do This World Suicide Prevention Month
- Raise awareness about suicide.
- Educate yourself and others about the warning signs.
- Fight and question the stigma.
- Share your own experiences.
- Be empathetic and show compassion.
10 Mental Health First Aid Steps To Help Someone Who Is Suicidal
Prepare yourself to approach the person and talk about your concerns.
Prepare by leaving your judgements and misconceptions at the door. Your attitudes surrounding mental health and suicide will be picked up by the person you’re trying to support. Remember, it’s not about you and your cultural/religious beliefs, it’s about being there for the person who needs your support and providing it for them.
Ask and then listen.
Asking a question like “Are you feeling suicidal?” tells the person that you’re ready and willing to talk about suicide in a supportive and non-judgemental way.
You could also ask “how can I help?” because this will help to focus on what reasons they have for living. It also stops you from imposing your reasons for them to stay alive, especially if you don’t know their personal situation.
Never promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret.
Don’t make a promise to keep their suicidal thoughts and feelings a secret, because this could put you in a bad position. You may have to break that promise in order to keep the person experiencing these thoughts and feelings, safe. Once that trust is broken, they may not turn to you in the future for support.
Instead, should they try to get you to agree to keep this a secret, you should try and be understanding and talk to them about it. Explain how you couldn’t make such a promise if it meant putting their wellbeing at risk.
Be supportive and understanding.
Remember, one of the most important things you can do is to be supportive, caring, and understanding if you find yourself in this kind of situation. It’s important the person knows that you care and that you want to help them than to worry about saying the “right” things.
Make sure to give the person your undivided attention whilst you make sure they know and understand that you care for them and that others do too.
Also, even if you don’t understand why they want to end their life, don’t dismiss the person or their motivation to want to do so.
Lastly, acknowledge the courage that it takes for the person to speak honestly about their feelings and thoughts.
You can be there for them by physically being present, but you can also be there for them by talking on the phone, messaging them, or any other way that shows them you’re there for them. However, don’t commit to doing anything that you’re not sure you can do or are unable to accomplish. Again, this could damage the trust between you, which means they might not reach out for support from you again.
If they do require someone to be physically there and you’re unable, help them to figure out who else could help support them, if they’re appropriate and willing to do so.
Establish whether the person is in immediate danger.
A person experiencing suicidal thoughts may have felt that their life isn’t worth living. Thus, it is important to figure out if the person experiencing suicidal thoughts is likely to harm themselves or if they’re in any immediate danger.
Ask the person questions such as whether they have a suicide plan, if they’ve attempted suicide before, or if they have been using drugs and/or alcohol. This is because intoxication from substances can increase someone’s likelihood of acting upon their suicidal thoughts.
Keep the person safe.
If you believe that a person is at risk of taking their own life, take steps to help keep them safe. Don’t leave them on their own. If they have friends or family, they can turn to, seek out a way to contact them so they can support the person.
If you are unsure how to act in such a situation, you could call a 24-hour helpline or the emergency services, where someone will help you out.
Help them connect and seek professional support
Much like I stated above, help the person connect with long-term support, and make sure they’re aware of crisis helplines they can call, message, or even chat to through an online messaging service.
If possible, reach out to the person to follow up on how they’re doing. It’ll help them feel like there’s someone who cares about their wellbeing. Send a message or call. It doesn’t really matter how you reach out, but reaching out will mean a lot to the person.
Remember, at every step, listening is important. Often, keeping the person talking is all you need to do until the moment passes.
My Personal Experience With Suicide
Two people I’ve personally known have unfortunately managed to take their own lives, and I have friends who have had loved ones who’ve taken their lives as well.
At university, I saw a friend try to take their own life, trying before we even knew anything was wrong. They went from being fine one minute, then trying to take their life after a phone call. Luckily, they survived and are now living a full life with their partner.
Bizarrely, or I guess given the WHO statistics, not that surprising, all those I’ve known to take their lives or who have tried have all been male.
I’ve struggled with suicidal ideation since I was in primary school (Suicidal Child). All as a result of racism from my peers, abuse from teachers and adult chaperones, and emotional neglect from my mother.
I’ve even attempted to take my own life on several occasions. But with my constant suicidal ideation, it’s a 24/7 battle to stop myself from acting on my thoughts. Fortunately for me, I haven’t tried since 2003, but I had a close call last August when everything just kept going wrong me until eventually the last straw broke the camel’s back. This left me consumed with a single thought for hours: the thought of how I was going to end my life. But I made it through it without attempting it.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of suicide and suicide prevention and help stop the stigma in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications of new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
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