In the UK, men are three times as likely to die by suicide than women. In the Republic of Ireland, the rate is four times higher among men than women.
And while there has been a reduction in the number of people completing suicide over the last ten years, the numbers of suicide related deaths are still worryingly high.
This is why 10th September 2022 marks World Suicide Prevention Day. This awareness day aims to start the conversation about suicide and to show that recovery is, indeed, possible.
Even if suicide isn’t something we have come across personally, it’s ever so important to be able to spot the signs and know what to do if we do come across someone struggling or indeed if we struggle to cope ourselves.
What are the facts?
• Males and females aged 45 to 49 years had the highest age-specific suicide rate.
• In 2020, there were 5,224 suicides registered in England and Wales.
• Around 3/4 of registered suicide deaths in 2020 were for men.
• Males and females aged 45 to 49 years had the highest age-specific suicide rate.
• For the fifth consecutive year, London has had the lowest suicide rate of any region of England.
• The highest rate in 2020 for suicide was in the North East of England.
(*data from ONS)
Spotting the signs in yourself, and knowing when to seek help.
If you are feeling low or struggling to cope right now, then know you are not alone.
Often when people are going through a tough time, they will experience negative thoughts about themselves and feel they have no-one to turn to. But this is far from true – there is always support available.
Everyone feels low at some point in their lives and if you’re struggling to cope it may be difficult to see beyond your current situation. Talking about how you’re feeling can help put things into perspective and help you to feel more positive about the future.
It’s ever so important that you identify any trigger situations. There are all sorts of reasons why you may be finding it hard to cope. Often, it’s due to a combination of things, perhaps because you are going through relationship issues or have financial worries, or maybe you are worried about your job or dealing with a difficult illness. Whatever the case, recognise the times and activities that bring on your worries, and pay attention to how you are feeling. Understanding your triggers is a vital first step.
When you have identified your triggers there are many things you can do to help yourself. Here are just five things you might wish to try to start off with:
1. Make time for yourself, relax and do things you enjoy.
2. Eat healthily; get plenty of sleep and exercise.
3. Spend time with people you love and do things you love.
4. Talk about your problems with people you trust.
5. Be proud of what you’re good at. Recognise your self worth and celebrate your achievements.
If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts don’t be afraid of how you feel. Remember feeling suicidal or wanting to hurt yourself are only temporary moments in time. Whilst they may feel as if they will never pass, with the right support and treatment life can definitely be worth living again. Every life is precious, and yours is no different.
When to ask for help if you are feeling suicidal, a checklist.
Knowing when to ask for help is really important. Take a look at our checklist below of things to look out for, and when you should consider seeking professional help.
• If you are noticing changes in your personality, i.e., becoming more reserved, or isolated.
• You are acting out on methods that could well end your life, for instance, you are experimenting with taking pills or cutting yourself.
• If you cannot find any positives in your daily life.
• If you have a preoccupation with death or think of death as a solution to your problems.
• When you have any kinds of thoughts of suicide or if you are feeling like nobody would care if you did not live.
• When you notice a disinterest in your hygiene, physical appearance and have a lack of motivation to do things you used to enjoy.
• When you blame yourself for the trauma you have previously experienced.
• When you are really affected by hate comments on social media or death threats.
If you are struggling to cope, please call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI) or contact other sources of support, such as those listed on the NHS’s help for suicidal thoughts webpage.
Support is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.
Try this; journaling
If you are feeling like thigs are getting on top of you and you can’t appreciate the positives in your day-to-day life, try writing a diary or a journal about what you are feeling. Use this activity to reflect on the smaller positive things. Then try to set some goals and share these goals with someone you trust so you feel more accountable.
Spotting the signs of suicide in others.
1 in 5 have suicidal thoughts
Did you know that people who have felt suicidal will often say what a relief it was to be able to talk about what they were experiencing?
It’s essential that people understand that suicidal thoughts are not a form of attention seeking. Rather there are a reality for so many people and the sooner we talk about them and remove the stigma, the better.
Simple actions can help you be there for someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts or recovering from an attempt to take their own life. In fact, you might be surprised to find out that evidence shows that by asking someone if they’re suicidal can actually protect them. By asking someone directly about suicide, you give them permission to tell you how they feel. Not only this, but you let them know that they are not a burden in talking about their feelings with you.
If someone does let you know that they are having suicidal thoughts, always take them seriously. You don’t have to be able to solve their problems. But, if you feel you can, offer support and encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. This is a great first step and can literally make the difference between life and death.
It’s also important to know when to seek additional support and when you should hand over to a professional. If you think someone is in immediate danger, and fear they are likely to take their life, the quickest way to get help is to call an ambulance on 999.
Spotting the signs of suicide in young people.
Suicide rates are often the highest in teens and young adults. Here are some ways you can spot the signs in younger people.
• Solitary behaviour or isolation.
• Lack of sleep or too much sleep.
• An addiction to alcohol and/ or drugs.
• If they have experienced trauma, such as sexual abuse.
• If they have feelings of worthlessness.
• If they have a fascination with the concept of death.
• Cyber-bullying or physical bullying.
• If they are researching ways to end their life.
• If there is a genetic history of suicide in the family.
• If they have no strong support system.
• If they are experiencing an unwanted pregnancy, domestic violence or an eating disorder.
• Financial stress, job-related worries or academic struggles.
• Living in neighbourhoods which are surrounded by crime.
• If they have experienced the ending of a relationship.
• If they are regularly seeing the glamourisation of suicide in media/ on social media.
The importance of talking.
We know that suicide can be prevented and giving people the confidence and skills to talk about suicide in the right way to the person suffering can often be an essential component to saving lives longer term. But to get there we have to remove the stigmas associated with suicide.
People are afraid to talk about suicide. They don’t know how to ask others about it, they don’t know what to say to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, and certainly, they do not know how to comfort someone who is affected by it.
The most important point to remember though is that talking to someone suffering with suicidal thoughts does not mean that they are more likely to end their life. Quite the opposite in fact; because it could well help save their life.
If you know someone who is suffering with suicidal thoughts or considering taking their own life, then consider the below 10 suggestions:
1. It is essential that you empathise with them. You could say something like, ‘I can’t imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand.’
2. Try to be non-judgemental. Don’t criticise or blame them for how they are feeling.
3. Where possible try to repeat their words back to them in your own words. This shows that you are listening. Repeating information can also make sure that you have understood them properly.
4. Ask about their reasons for living and dying and listen to their answers. Then try to explore and elaborate on their reasons for living in more detail.
5. Ask them if they have felt like this before and if so, ask them how their feelings have changed from the last time they felt like this.
6. Encourage the individual to focus on things they are looking forward to in their future. This can help to foster feelings of hopefulness.
7. Ask them if they have a plan for ending their life and what that might be.
8. Encourage them to seek help that they are comfortable with. Such as help from a doctor or counsellor, or support through a charity. Work with them to put them in touch with that support where possible.
9. Remember to follow up any commitments that you agree to, so that they feel they can rely on you long term.
10. Make sure someone is with them if they are in immediate danger.
What NOT to say:
If someone confides in you that they are feeling suicidal, your response may be to tell them to ‘cheer up’ or tell them to ‘pull themselves together’. Perhaps you might try to change the subject to take their minds off it. None of these things are going to help that person – and could actually do far more damage.
..And finally, our tip of the month; the one thing we ask you to do today if you do nothing else…
Focus on what you can control: What with the cost-of-living crisis and the aftershocks of the pandemic; we’re in a time of massive upheaval. Of course, there are so many things outside of our control right now and this can be tough to accept. So many of us will respond to this by continuously thinking about all the different scenarios that ‘might’ or ‘could’ happen. But this strategy will get us nowhere. It will only leave us feeling drained, anxious, and overwhelmed. Instead, be kind to yourself, focus on what you can control and celebrate your small achievements.
Samaritans – www.samaritans.org
Telephone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Address: Chris, Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, Stirling, FK8 2SA
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (response time – 24 hours)
Shout – www.giveusashout.org
Text SHOUT to 85258 for a free and confidential text support service
Mental Health Foundation – www.mentalhealth.org.uk
MIND – www.mind.org.uk
NHS 111 – www.111.nhs.uk
Cruse bereavement care – www.cruse.org.uk
Papyrus – Prevention of young suicide (under 35yrs)
Call: 0800 068 41 41
Text: 07860 039967
NHS Drug addiction – www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/drug-addiction-getting-help
Alcoholics anonymous – www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk
CALM – www.thecalmzone.net
Telephone: 0800 58 58 58 (5pm-midnight, 365 days a year)
Webchat: through the website (5pm-midnight, 365 days a year)
National suicide prevention alliance – www.nspa.org.uk
Stay alive app and website – www.prevent-suicide.org.uk
The Listening Place: Face-to face support for those experiencing suicidal thoughts (https://listeningplace.org.uk).
Suicide Prevention UK: https://www.spuk.org.uk
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide: local support groups for anyone bereaved or affected by suicide. 0300 111 5065 (uk-sobs.org.uk)
Grassroots Suicide Prevention (https://prevent-suicide.org.uk/) – consists of downloadable resources, safety plans.