Sinking into suicide: how to help throw the life jacket

More than 6,000 deaths are due to an individual completing suicide, in the UK. Recently this number has slowly fallen; except in Scotland where it has risen. This means that someone dies from suicide every two hours but the amount of people who have attempted suicide cannot accurately be recorded.

In the United Kingdom suicide is the number one cause of death for people aged between 20 – 34. The risk of suicide is significantly higher in young males, around 75% of these deaths are young men. This is due to the stigma and personal feelings of shame associated with mental illness.

Educating the masses about services to visit, phone, text, or email is excellent. Giving people a safe space is key to overcoming their demons, although I don’t think this is enough. As a community we need to know how we can do our part in help people going through this. People who have decided to end their life have most likely seen all the information on seeking help but they’ve already decided, so why would they seek help? I feel that, as a society, it is also our job to recognise the signs and know what to do when someone is contemplating ending their life.

90% of people who go on to complete suicide have had no contact with their GP or any associated services up to a year before they completed suicide. Assuring people that they are welcome to open up is a good move forward, but what about the people who care about them?

There’s load of things set up to offer help to people but we rarely see anything outlining the signs and symptoms friends, family, or colleagues should be looking for and the actions that should be taken if you suspect someone of having suicidal intent. When people take action on behalf of someone there is a higher chance of saving their life. You’re more likely to complete suicide if no one is aware but 9 out of 10 people who have had a failed attempt to end their life do not go on to complete their suicide.

First let’s talk about risk factors!

More than 90% of suicides are carried out by people who have a diagnosed mental illness – although those with no diagnoses or involvement with services can go on to complete or attempt suicide.

  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Trauma or abuse
  • Unemployment / redundancy
  • Social isolation
  • Poverty
  • Poor social conditions
  • Imprisonment
  • Violence
  • Family breakdowns

How you can help others experiencing suicidal ideation:

There are factors that may help people understand or realise how deeply unhappy someone is and who may be contemplating taking their own life.

  • If someone is becoming withdrawn, anxious, or are feeling depressed.
  • If there is a loss of interest in their usual hobbies, their work, their appearance, and their social lives,
  • Feeling as though there is no purpose in life or expressing feelings of hopelessness.
  • Not caring about what may happen to them and acting in dangerous and impulsive ways.
  • Giving possessions to friends, family, or selling them online.
  • Discussing suicide, death, and dying with others.

Although these signs may sound slightly obvious there are more hidden signs of those who go on to complete suicide. People may start discussing how they will “sort everything out” or seem more content because they have made the decision to end their life, so they see their suffering coming to an end.

So here’s what to do if you are worried about someone!

Don’t be afraid to say suicide out loud. There’s no shame in directly asking the person if they have considered or are considering suicide or harming themselves. Suicide is not a dirty word! Speak to them about how they feel and don’t forget to listen! Try and find out if they have a direct plan, the more information the more helpful it is.

Talking is powerful and the person in question may be overwhelmed with relief that someone has asked and putting the topic out for discussion.

Encourage them to seek help. An appointment with the GP, a phone call to NHS24, or even a trip to a&e.

If you’re incredibly worried about this person do not be afraid to call the police, either emergency or non-emergency line! It is vital that if someone is in imminent danger to themselves, or others, that the police be informed. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others to get advice on what to do.

*NOTE* if you have exhausted all of this and the individual does complete suicide do not blame yourself. You are only human and should feel accomplished that you tried your best to prevent this. Sadly the above does not always work but it is a selfless and courageous thing to do to try and help someone through the darkest period of their life.