What to do for yourself and others experiencing suicidal thoughts
September is Suicide Awareness Month across the globe with World Suicide Prevention Day on the 10th where charities, groups, individuals, and initiatives campaign to reduce deaths by suicide worldwide.
According to the Samaritans, there were 6,507 suicides in the UK in 2018 and deaths by suicide went up by 10.9% in the UK that year. Men aged 45-49 are the highest age group for suicides in England and the suicide rate in this group increased in 2018.
So what can we do to prevent these tragic figures from increasing and how can we help those experiencing suicidal thoughts?
The first action you can take if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal is to talk about it, openly and unashamedly. There are many organisations that offer support if you are feeling suicidal. The Samaritans provide a 24/7 helpline for any who are experiencing these kinds of feelings. Call 116 123 for free any time day or night.
If you are a young person experiencing these feelings you can contact Papyrus, a national charity dedicated to the prevention of suicide in young people, 9 am–12 am (midnight) every day of the year on 0800 068 41 41.
If making that phone call feels like too much you can anonymously contact Shout, an instant messaging service you can text and get an instant response from a trained volunteer from, on 85258.
If you know someone who is experiencing suicidal feelings it can be tough to broach the subject with them, leaving you feeling rather helpless. But you could be the person that makes a difference by reaching out. Ask the direct question "Are you feeling suicidal?" It may be a huge relief to the individual that someone has asked and enabled them to open up and talk. Ask if they have made specific plans, if they have this may be an emergency situation, we made need extra support to ensure their safety, which could include calling 999 if no other support is available.
The most important thing we can do is listen, validate how they are feeling, and don't try to minimise their situation. We may encourage someone to seek professional help alongside other supports, such as connecting with friends and family, focusing on self care and exercise. It could also include practical help such as support with debt or housing. All of these steps aid recovery.
A suicide leaves endless questions unanswered and can have a huge impact on the people that knew the person. The reason for the suicide may never be known and this can impact the grieving period of those closest to them.
Suicide also has a ripple effect and can impact more people than you might think. This tragic end to anyone’s life may affect people that didn’t even know the person that took their life. If you are struggling with the death of a loved one or even a stranger from suicide then again we advise you to talk these feelings through with a professional or even a friend or family member. If you have experienced suicide in your close network of family or friends the many unanswered questions can be a huge burden on your ability to move past your grief and enjoy life again.
The important thing to remember is that another person’s suicide is not your fault. There are many reasons people take their own lives and it could be that the pain of living became too much to bear.
Suicide is a complex topic and a growing cause of death, particularly in men. We must consider why this is, what is wrong with the way we live that so many feel they cannot cope and adjust our way of living accordingly. The stress of daily life, of earning enough money to live, and of living up to society’s expectations can be overwhelming. There may be concerns that the future is not worth living or a feeling that we have lost our place in the world. Some may feel they are the problem, and that by removing themselves their loved ones will be free of them and ‘better off’. It’s not true.
Perhaps take a step back if you are feeling like this, put in place time to look after your wellbeing and your mental health, and above all, be honest about how you are feeling with those around you.
Help is available if you need it.
Don’t suffer in silence.