We can all help suicide prevention

Tomorrow (10 September 2020) is World Suicide Prevention Day so we invited Shannon Humphrey, a Mental Health First Aid Instructor with www.pathwaysforpositivity.com to explain how we can help.

Worryingly, most people are touched by suicide at some point in their lives. A family member, partner, spouse, colleague or passing acquaintance.

Most of us know someone who has been desperate enough to end their suffering by taking their own life. What drives one person (worldwide) every 40 seconds to take their own life may never be fully understood. Suicide is a sensitive issue with lots of complex and personal reasons. For every completed suicide 25 more people will attempt to kill themselves.

Experts predict that the Covid-19 pandemic has escalated a mental health crisis which could last for years and increase suicide rates. The measures we have been taking to control the virus – isolation, shutdowns, business and school closures, restricted access to family and friends, furloughs, job losses or high pressure work environments have created a toxic mixture of anxiety, loneliness, grief anger and overwhelming uncertainty about the future, causing more people to make life ending decisions.

Maybe you’ve noticed a family member, friend, or colleague who just doesn’t seem themselves lately? It might be something they said or did, or just a feeling that something isn’t quite right with them. They could be struggling with their mental health and wellbeing.

To reduce the rate of suicides it’s important to break the stigma of talking about mental health, being aware of suicide indicators, the signs that something is wrong and having conversations that might seem difficult at first.

Choose a place and time when you can speak privately without interruption. Try not to look shocked or interrupt them when they are speaking, remain calm and non-judgemental. You don’t have to know all the answers or solve their trauma, a listening ear can be enough to let someone know you care. If you have time, prepare yourself with the phone number of a local mental health support service in case it is required for ongoing assistance.

People who are thinking of ending their lives often don’t want to feel like a burden so they will probably say they are OK even if they aren’t. They might even try to laugh it off. Don’t be fobbed off. If you are concerned enough to ask about their mental health, the chances are that your gut instinct is right. Ask again. Be direct. Ask if they are having suicidal thoughts.

Asking someone who isn’t suicidal if they are, isn’t going to make them do it. Let them know that what they tell you is in confidence unless they are a vulnerable adult or child, or if they admit to an imminent suicide plan, then you must call 999.

And if they really are fine? That’s great. At least they know that you care, and they can confide in you if they need to. Better to ask and be wrong than not ask and be right, you could save a life.

The government advice for the pandemic is to Stay Alert, it could just as easily be the banner for suicide prevention.

We all need to Stay Alert- Check in with family members and friends, yes, even the loud, funny one who seems to be the life and soul of every party. Be honest about our own mental health and don’t be afraid to seek help if it’s needed.

You can contact The Samaritans on 116 123


This post was written by Shannon Humphrey

Photo: Shutterstock

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