Saturday is World Suicide Prevention day. Suicide is something that we seem to be scared of talking about, almost as if talking about it makes a person more likely to do it. However, being honest and talking about suicide can help to reduce the risk not increase it. The best way to assess if someone is contemplating suicide is to ask directly, then go on to listen, understand and discuss their thoughts and feelings. Often this helps greatly in getting over the immediate crisis of suicide.
There isn’t a particular type of person who commits suicide, and while there are often warning signs these can be missed. So if someone talks to you about ending their life you should take it seriously and be prepared to listen and talk to them. It is important to continue to give support even as the person is getting better as it is possible to relapse.
There are many myths round suicide for example, people who talk about suicide never follow through. Often people have tried to reach out for weeks before committing suicide, yet no-one was there to hear. So listening and supporting really can save lives.
In the UK in 2009 (report ) there wer 5,675 suicides and while numbers have been slowly falling, there are still to high and its not clear that this is a sustained trend. 3 times as many men as women commit suicide and its not clear why, but one factor may be that men see themselves as having to be strong and cope with whatever life sends them and women will try to talk about their feelings to friends.
What you can do if someone you know talks about wanting to die or not seeing any point in going on. Perhaps they seem calmer after a long perion of stress and low mood, perhaps they have been putting things in order.
It may be diffciult, raise the subject with them and name your concerns, “I am worried that you are going to commit suicide and I wanted to talk to you”. Let the person talk about their feelings, try to understand from their point of view and don’t dismiss their feelings. You could encourage them to get help – phone their GP or a service like samaritains, counsellors can help too. If they tell you they have a plan and they have the means to carry it out you should get help immediately, don’t leave them alone, phone their doctor or an ambulance. Never promise secrecy, but do promise to listen. Remember it can be hard on you too so find someone to talk about your own feelings.
If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone you trust or your doctor or one of the support services. You are not alone and however, hard it is to believe other people have survived this and recovered. So take the first step and talk to someone.