Are you worried about someone ending their life?
Suicide is a public health issue, globally current figure approximate that 800,000 people will die of suicide each year.
Statistically one person ends their life every two hours. Looking into these figures more closely, men are three times of greater risk of completing suicide, however it is important to note that the figure for women completing suicide is increasing.
Those identified as most at risk:
Children and young people
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young persons aged between 15 to 29 year olds. There were approximately 145 suicides by young people in England between January 2014 and April 2015, 70% of these being males.
Key themes for suicide in young people include:
Suicide related internet use, bullying, mental illness, self-harm and suicidal ideas, abuse and neglect, academic pressure in relation to exams, social isolation and physical health that may have a social impact including asthma and acne, relationship breakdowns and difficulties (including bereavement, relationship separation and family breakdown e.g. divorce) and young persons who are being looked after.
Some populations are at higher risk of suicide than others and may be considered as vulnerable groups:
Males aged between 45-59 years old, people who use illicit substances and/or alcohol, the unemployed, Black British, Eastern European and ethnic minority groups, people who subject to the criminal justice system, people with a known mental illness, those who have a history or are currently engaging in self injurious behaviour (such as self-harm), those with a history of attempting suicide, veterans and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The elderly are also at risk of suicide, studies have shown that a contributing factor is untreated depression often compounded by other risk factors such as; chronic pain/disability, bereavement, loss of role which can promote isolation and a loss of sense of purpose.
How can I help?
Look out for warning signs- ask family and friends to look out for these too:
As someone close to the person you are concerned about, you are very likely to spot warning signs that they may be considering suicide. If we can spot warning signs and seek timely intervention and support, we are likely to increase suicide prevention and help your loved one on their journey to recovery.
Warning signs can include:
- Isolation- people can become more withdrawn and isolative from friends and family. People may also avoid engaging in activities/routines that they would usually enjoy or find pleasurable and choose to stay home or where they can be alone
- Talking about suicide and self-harm- people can become preoccupied with thoughts of death and dying and talk about self-harm. They may also talk about feeling like a ‘burden’…”people would be better off without me…” , talk about feelings of hopelessness “things will not get better” “I’m a failure…I can’t carry on, it’s too difficult…”or express feelings of being trapped and self-loathing with no hopes for the future
- Engaging in destructive and/or injurious behaviour- people may self-harm or if they have self-harmed for a longer period, may increase the frequency and severity of these. People may increase their use of drugs and/or alcohol or take risks that could be seen as reckless (e.g. unsafe sex/increase in promiscuity, driving whilst under the influence of alcohol/drugs), not taking prescribed medications-appearing apathetic or ambivalent about the potential consequences, which typically includes harm to themselves
- Researching methods of dying- using the internet/social media to research methods of suicide, accessing methods such as purchasing drugs, speaking to others on suicide forums/websites
- Preparation- writing ‘goodbye’ letters/poems/social media posts, completion of wills and getting affairs in order. Unexpected/unusual visits/contacts with friends and family members to say ‘goodbye’
- Sudden changes to mood and presentation- sometimes when people have made the decision to end their life, they can present as calmer or happy as they may feel at peace with their decision.
Talk to them about your concerns
It is unproven and considered a myth, that by talking to someone and asking them directly about suicide, increases their risk or can ‘give them the idea’ of suicide. In fact, often giving someone the opportunity to talk about their feelings in a non-judgemental way can help them feel loved and cared for and help them to seek help.
Understandably, it can feel scary and overwhelming but if you have noticed warning signs of suicide and/or symptoms of depression, talk to your loved one about them. If you feel unable or that they may feel more comfortable talking to another family member/friend, talk to them about this and ask if they can help by talking with them.
If people do talk about having suicidal ideas or having a ‘plan’ this does not necessarily mean that ‘they don’t really want to do it because they have talked about it’ which is another misconception about suicide.
Having suicidal thoughts does not mean that your loved one must be experiencing a psychosis or have a severe and enduring mental illness. Many people can experience suicidal thoughts in response to extreme emotional distress such as grief or other factors. Many people who are suicidal do not necessarily want to die or end their life, many people are wanting the emotional burden/pressure/pain to stop, with this in mind starting a conversation with your loved one can be their first steps to seeking help and their journey to recovery. For further help and support please click on the useful links.
- Be proactive in listening- allow time for the person to speak without interrupting and try to avoid talking about any spiritual/religious/personal views you have about suicide. This is likely to exacerbate the any feelings of guilt/shame
- Be yourself and don’t be afraid to express your concerns- if you act very differently, the person may feel uncomfortable or be less likely to open up and ‘let you in’ to their experiences and how they are feeling
- Validate how they are feeling by being understanding- such as ‘that must feel very difficult or hard for you…’. Try to imagine how you may feel in their situation and what things may help you to feel better and more likely for you to open up in their situation. Take them seriously
- Try to resist the temptation to argue, act shocked or blame yourself for the situation they are in. This is less likely to encourage your loved one to be honest with their feelings.
If you have immediate concerns for your loved one’s safety for example; they have disclosed that they have a plan for suicide, the means to complete this and you are frightened that they will do this at the next available opportunity - do not leave them on their own and seek urgent help by the following:
- Call their GP - explain the situation and request an urgent appointment at the surgery or at home, if the person you love is unlikely/refused to attend
- Support your loved one to Accident and Emergency - there are specialist Mental Health teams within the department who can offer support to your loved one and will speak to them and discuss treatment options available for them. It is important to note that your loved one will have to provide consent for their care to be discussed with you. If they do not provide consent, you are able to discuss your concerns and any information you wish to provide to them and you are also able to provide this in confidence
- If you are concerned for someone’s safety and you cannot get hold of them/do not know where they are, you can contact the Police and request a ‘welfare check’. Again the Police are unable to share any information without your loved one’s consent, but they are able to proactively look for you loved if they are considered at risk of suicide and take them to a place of safety, if they feel this is required.
- If your loved one is under the care of mental health services, contact their nurse or social worker to seek help/advise. If they are unavailable (not in the office) ask to speak with the duty worker. If they have a safety plan, revisit this with them on this link to support your loved one to complete one.