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Suicide Prevention Month – It’s okay to not be okay

The month of September is dedicated to suicide prevention making it a national month, which also has a national day on september 10th, world suicide prevention day. It is an important reminder that everyone can make a difference to others who have reached the point of wanting to end their lives. 

The need for suicide prevention is at least as great as ever. In the UK, the suicide rate appears to have risen for the first time since 2013, according to new figures from the Office of National Statistics. 

Men in their late forties are at an especially high risk of taking their own lives and women in this age group are also at relatively high risk. 

Suicides among young people are far fewer – but the latest statistics show a troubling increase in recent years. Among 10-to-24-year-old girls and women in particular, there has been an especially sharp rise in the number taking their own lives.

(Mental Health Foundation, Sep 2019)

Signs someone may need support 

Suicide and self-harm are prevenatble mental health crises. We can be proactive by recognising expressions of someone in distress. 

Warning signs:

  • Someone expressing feelings of being trapped, like there is no way out 
  • Someone expressing hopelessness or stating no reason for living 
  • Someone withdrawing from family, their friends, or usual activities they like.
  • Someone talking or threatening to hurt or kill themselves. 

These are only a couple of signatures, and there are different ways people exhibit pain.

How to be supportive

Listen 

Let someone really express their experiences. Being someone they can talk to is essential when giving support. 

Be non-judgmental 

Don’t criticize or minimize the way they feel. You may not be able to understand exactly what they’re going through, that’s ok.

Ask what, not why

When you ask questions, avoid asking ‘why’ questions, and instead ask ‘what’ questions. Asking why can have a judgmental tone even if you don’t mean it that way. 

Give information – don’t diagnose

Don’t assume they have an illness or condition. Provide direction to resources that can identify and treat mental health issues. 

Act as a bridge 

You can connect someone to mental health resources. Resources include family, school guidance, mental health professionals, and organizations. 

 A supportive friend

Being supportive doesn’t mean your duty is to ‘fix’ someone. Mental health is complicated and solutions aren’t overnight. As a teammate, the best support you can give is being a trusting ear, helping to navigate resources, and acting as a source of encouragement.

(Hope For The Day Organisation, Sep 2019)

 

WAIT – how you can help 

Prevention is also something that we can all individually help with. A short conversation with another person can sometimes be enough to make the difference between life and death for them.

The acronym ‘WAIT’ is one good way to remember how you can support another person who may be suicidal. It stands for: 

Watch out for signs of distress and uncharacteristic behaviour

 e.g. social withdrawal, excessive quietness, irritability, uncharacteristic outburst, talking about death or suicide

Ask “are you having suicidal thoughts?”

Asking about suicide does not encourage it, nor does it lead a person to start thinking about it; in fact it may help prevent it, and can start a potentially life-saving conversation

It will pass 

Assure your loved one that, with help, their suicidal feelings will pass with time

Talk to others 

Encourage your loved one to seek help from a GP or health professional

Resources 

Samaritans offer a 24-hours a day, 7 days a week support service. Call them FREE on 116 123. You can also email jo@samaritans.org

Papyrus is a dedicated service for people up to the age of 35 who are worried about how they are feeling or anyone concerned about a young person. You can call the HOPElineUK number on 0800 068 4141, text 07786 209697 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org

NHS Choices: 24-hour national helpline providing health advice and information. Call them free on 111. 

C.A.L.M.: National helpline for men to talk about any troubles they are feeling. Call 0800 58 58 58.

Support After Suicide Partnership offers practical and emotional support on their website for people bereaved and affected by suicide.