How to Help Someone Who’s Suicidal: World Suicide Prevention Day
Contemplating suicide is no joke, and sadly many of us knows someone who is, or has been, suicidal.
One in every 100 deaths worldwide is the result of suicide according to the World Health Organization.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) created World Suicide Prevention Day in 2003 to raise awareness about suicide and to how we can improve suicide prevention.
It is always held on the 10th September and the World Health Organization (WHO) co-sponsor it.
To support this day, I’ve recorded a MindVox Pod episode discussing how to support people who are suicidal, and wanted to highlight the main points here too.
Shocking Suicide Statistics
More than 703,000 people are dying from suicide each year according to statistics from WHO.
This number doesn’t include unsuccessful attempts; For every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more also attempt it.
In 2019 it was the fourth leading cause of death amongst 15-19 year-olds worldwide.
The suicide rate for men is twice the amount for women.
58% of all suicides are of people below the age of 50.
77% of global suicides occur in low and middle income countries.
With these numbers in mind, it’s worth remembering that every single suicide affects a family and community.
The long-lasting effects it has on the people left behind is also an area that requires recognition.
Who is at Risk of Suicide?
There are various reasons or factors that can result in someone wanting to end their life.
There’s a link between suicide and mental health conditions, in particular with depression and alcohol addiction.
Many people attempt suicide impulsively in a moment of huge crisis or feeling trapped and overwhelmed.
For those with long-term chronic stresses, it can start to become difficult to keep on managing the stressors.
This can lead to burnout or nervous breakdowns, which increases risk of suicide.
A person may feel like a burden to those around them and feel alone with no other options.
The recent Pandemic and lockdowns have contributed to increased feelings of isolation and vulnerability for many people.
Social isolation, conflict, being abused (physically or emotionally), and being discriminated against are other experiences that can elevate risk of self-harm.
Other common factors include relationship breakdowns, chronic pain, illness and financial problems.
And above all, the strongest risk is having already attempted suicide at least once in the past.
How can we Help Prevent it as a Community?
Sadly there appears to still be a stigma around suicide across the world.
Only 38 countries have a national suicide prevention strategy according to WHO.
Social media platforms often mute or shadow ban posts if the word is mentioned.
Whilst this is important to do where people are glamorising it or encouraging it, it doesn’t help when people are being shut down for being open.
We need to see people talking openly about their feelings and personal journeys in order to help others who are going through it.
Raising awareness and breaking the stigma by talking about it and learning about it is how we can reduce it.
WHO advise that it can be prevented with ‘timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions’.
WHO have a preventative approach called LIVE LIFE. They recommend ways our countries, communities and individuals can help reduce suicide by:
- limiting access to various means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications)
- the media employing more responsible reporting of suicide
- teaching socio-emotional life skills to adolescents
- early identification, assessment, management and follow-up for those affected by suicidal behaviours
How can we Help our Loved Ones?
It can be difficult to know how to help someone we love when they’re suicidal, especially if it’s something we’ve not experienced.
To support a loved one who you feel is at risk of this, or even yourself, there are things we can do.
Look out for the signs
Warning signs can include:
- Rage and Uncontrolled Anger
- Engaging in risky activities and self-destructive behaviours
- Feeling trapped
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from friends and family, and even work.
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Dramatic mood changes
- Increased anxiety
Don’t be afraid to ask the question
It’s a myth that by talking about suicide you might make it more likely to happen.
Asking how they really feel, and listening to the answer is important.
It allows them to feel heard, and it can help them to process feelings by saying them out loud.
Speaking our thoughts and feelings aloud can help us to process them differently.
Talking openly enables you to remind them of the alternatives there are to suicide too- it’s not the only option.
Show them you care
You don’t need to give them advice or have all the answers.
Simply showing them you care can make a huge difference.
Making time and space for them to talk to you and showing genuine concern for them can help.
Even small talk about other things can be a helpful distraction, giving them respite from their own thoughts.
Share your own experiences
Your own insight, personal journey through dark times and what you have learnt can really inspire and motivate others.
Sharing how you’ve got through difficult times can offer alternatives to try that they haven’t thought to previously.
Talking about suicide can help reduce the stigma, and active listening can convey the person is heard and understood.
Hearing that many people commonly go through it can help a person feel less alone.
Encourage self-care and self-compassion
Not having regular support and breaks can literally cause the brain to shut down and no longer be able to deal with usual life stresses. Self-care isn’t an Instagram trend, it’s something that’s been recognised to reduce the brain breaking down.
Showing kindness and compassion towards them and encouraging the person to practice self-compassion may help them to feel able to talk about what is going on for them and help them recognise they aren’t bad or a failure for having these common thoughts and feelings.
Ways to Get Involved with World Suicide Prevention Day
More than 60 countries now take part since the awareness day began nearly 20 years ago.
IAPS have a great range of activities to get involved to spread the word this year.
Light a Candle
On September 10th you can light a candle and place it near a window at 8pm to show your support for suicide prevention.
The candle can represent a lost loved one and/or survivors of suicide.
You can share photos of your candle on social media to raise awareness and encourage others to take part.
Use Social Media
Social media is a great way to share the message and challenge the stigma.
Use the official hashtags, #WorldSuicidePreventionDay, #CreatingHopeThroughAction #WSPD, #WSPD2022 or #BeTheLight to join the conversation and help spread awareness of suicide prevention.
This can include sharing your personal journey or sharing official images and information from the IASP resource page.
Do the Virtual Cycle Around the Globe 2022
IASP run this yearly virtual event From 10 September – 10 October.
Simply cycle whatever distance on any road, track or gym and use the hashtag #CycleTheGlobe to share your journey.
Anyone from around the world can take part, and the event is completely free to participate with fundraising being optional.
Register and get the digital toolkit here.
This is an alliance of public, private and voluntary organisations in England who care about suicide prevention and are willing to take individual and collective action to reduce suicide and self-harm, and support those bereaved or affected by suicide.
This organisation improves the lives of people severely affected by mental illness through their network of local groups and services, expert information and successful campaigning. Their goal is to make sure everyone severely affected by mental illness has a good quality of life.
A charity that offers support via phone calls, emails, letters and face-to-face across the UK.
This conversation movement endeavours to inspire others to help break the silence and ask ‘are you ok?’ to support someone struggling with some simple steps that could change a life.
This campaign is about giving people the confidence to have the conversation by connecting them with resources to support them. The take home message is that you don’t have to be a clinician, GP or nurse to check in with the person whom you are concerned about.
This campaign encourages everyone to take 5 minutes out of their day and complete five action items:
1. Learn the warning signs 2. Do your part 3. Practise self-care 4. Reach out 5. Spread the word
1. Ask 2. Be There 3. Keep Them Safe 4. Help Them Connect 5. Follow up.
No payment has been made for this post. All opinions are my own, and any facts or statistics have been referenced using hyperlinks to the sources.