TODAY (Friday 10 September) marks World Suicide Prevention Day with the theme this year set around ‘creating hope through action’ through aiming to raise awareness of how we can create a world where fewer people die by suicide.
According to the Samaritans, the latest suicide statistics showed that in 2018, more than 6,800 people died by suicide in the UK. World Health Organisation statistics show that 700,000 people die by suicide every year. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death amongst 15 to 29-year-olds globally and of men under 50 in the UK. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy.
Death by suicide, even more than other forms of bereavement, makes many people uncomfortable and unsure of how to react to those who have lost a loved one in this way. Although suicide was decriminalized in 1961 in the UK, there can still be a stigma attached to it rooted in centuries of history. It can be that the bereaved, themselves, shun contact. They may be reluctant to share their own feelings because they are fearful of what they are experiencing; they may not want to bother people, or they may worry about how to field questions about how their loved one died. This can add a deep sense of hurt and isolation to the loss. Those who have been bereaved by suicide may also have symptoms of post-traumatic stress and suffer from flashbacks or nightmares, particularly if they witnessed the death. A further pressure may come from media attention when the person dies which can subsequently be repeated after the police investigation, inquest or court case.
‘Creating hope through action’ is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and aims to inspire confidence and light in all of us; that our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling. Preventing suicide is often possible and we can all make a difference to someone in their darkest moments – as a member of society, as a child, as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbour.
The factors and causes that lead to suicide are complex and many. No single approach works for everyone. What we do know is that there are certain factors and life events that may make someone more vulnerable to suicide, and mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can also be a contributing factor. People who are suicidal may feel trapped or a burden on their friends and family; they may feel like they are alone and have no other options. The pandemic has contributed to increased feelings of isolation and vulnerability.
You can help give someone hope by showing that you care. We may never know what we do that makes a difference. You do not need to tell them what to do or have solutions, but simply making the time and space to listen to someone about their experiences of distress or suicidal thoughts can help. Small talk can save lives and create a sense of connection and hope in somebody who may be struggling.
Stigma is a major barrier to help-seeking. Changing the narrative around suicide through the promotion of hope can create a more compassionate society where those in need feel more comfortable in coming forward to seek help. We can all do something to live in a world where suicide is recognised, and we can all do something to help prevent it.
Personal stories of an individual’s experiences of significant emotional distress, suicidal thoughts or attempt, and their experiences of recovery can inspire hope in others that they too can move through the period of distress or crisis, and their insights can help others understand what it means to feel suicidal and how they can support others.
Individuals sharing experiences of being bereaved through suicide and how they came to live their ‘new normal’, can help others experiencing suicidal loss make sense of the devastation of suicide and believe they will be able to live through and with the loss.
Tovey Bros is appealing to the people of Gwent to support this message by lighting a candle near the window of their home at 8pm tonight in a show of solidarity for all those who have been impacted by suicide.
Anyone needing more information on suicide-related issues or testimonials should visit www.iasp.info/wspd2021/
Newport and Gwent Samaritans can be reached on 116 123 free from any phone or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org where they aim to respond within 24 hours.