The purpose of World Suicide Prevention Day is to raise global awareness that suicide can be prevented. The need for a focus on suicide prevention is driven by the alarming national and international statistics, including:
- Globally, more than 700,000 people die by suicide annually, representing 1 person every 40 seconds (WHO, 2021)
- For every 1 suicide, 20 people make a suicide attempt (WHO, 2021)
- (On average) 135 people are affected by each suicide death (Cerel, 2018), meaning that 94.5 million people are bereaved by suicide worldwide every year
- Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in people who die by suicide (IASP, 2020)
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds (WHO, 2020)
You may worry that you may not say the ‘right thing’, but actually what’s most important is that you have let them know that you have noticed and that you care.
If you have personally lost a family member, a partner, a friend, an acquaintance, a colleague, or been impacted by the suicide of a public figure, you may well have intimate knowledge of how suicide affects not only you, as an individual, but how the impact ripples out in families, friendship groups, schools, and society in general. Every single suicide is a loss. Not only of the person in your life, whether that be a personal relationship, or someone who has influence in your life, but it’s a loss of potential; what might have been.
We know that there are always solutions and that suicide is preventable, but, for the person who may be thinking of taking their own life, it can be difficult to think of a way out of the pain they are experiencing; to think beyond the immediate situation and to consider that ‘things might get better’. They might find it impossible to consider any other solution other than ending the pain they are in.
We are all bystanders in relation to each other’s lives, sometimes interacting and close, sometimes more distanced and unconnected; often observing. Whilst we are not responsible for the wellbeing of everyone around us, we can be a part of the solution; a piece of the puzzle. If we notice changes, unusual behaviour, when something is different, we can reach out or we can pass on our concerns.
Just take a minute to try these ways of supporting someone…
- Reach out, express your concern, and ask a simple question: ‘Are you okay?’
- You may worry that you may not say the ‘right thing’, but actually what’s most important is that you have let them know that you have noticed and that you care.
- Encourage them to tell their story, listen, show empathy and compassion and be non-judgemental; acknowledge their pain and reflect what you are hearing. Be kind.
- If it’s too hard for you to take that step, tell someone else about your concerns and ask them to check on the person you’re worried about. Now there are two people with their eyes on the person.
- The situation might call for professional support, a doctor, a visit to the A&E, going with someone to the school counsellor, calling the emergency services or it may be that just taking a minute and reaching out is a first step out of their painful isolation.
- Take some time to inform yourself about what services and resources are available that you could signpost them to.
There are always solutions and when someone is suicidal we all have the potential to be that light on the edge of their ‘darkness’, however small. Extend a hand, make a connection and listen with compassion and empathy, perhaps signposting to a resource or a service, showing kindness. Just sharing their despair with you, could help a person who is feeling suicidal, connect with hope.
If you’re concerned about someone, take a minute of your time to reach out and connect.
We are all, potentially, part of the solution.