Suicide is a topic that is usually not talked about. People are afraid of the word suicide. No one wants to imagine someone they love thinking about or dying by suicide. This is why no one talks about it. But the thing is, we need to talk about it, because its not as uncommon as people think. One in Four (26%) young people in the UK experience suicidal thoughts.
One person dies every 40 seconds by suicide worldwide – that is an estimate of 1440 deaths by suicide a day! By 2020, the rate of death will increase to every 20 seconds. 2880 people will be dying of suicide a day… How can there be such a negative stigma surrounding suicide when it claims so many lives in simply a day? Suicide has now become one of the three leading causes of death among those aged between 15-44. More than 4,000 children under the age of 14 tried to take their own lives in the UK in the year 2007.
The point is: if you’re not experiencing suicidal thoughts, someone you know is. Many people have suicidal thoughts at some point in their life. Feeling this way means that you have more pain than you can manage at the moment, and that’s totally okay.
Remember that someone who has thoughts of suicides may not necessary attempt suicide. Suicide thoughts are different to suicide attempts but this does not mean their feelings are invalid or should be overlooked.
A person may be at high risk of attempting suicide if they:
- threaten to hurt or kill themselves
- talk or write about death, dying or suicide
- actively look for ways to kill themselves, such as stockpiling tablets
A person may be at risk of attempting suicide if they:
- complain of feelings of hopelessness
- have episodes of sudden rage and anger
- act recklessly and engage in risky activities with an apparent lack of concern about the consequences
- talk about feeling trapped, such as saying they can’t see any way out of their current situation
- Self harm – including misusing drugs or alcohol, or using more than they usually do
- noticeably gain or lose weight due to a change in their appetite
- become increasingly withdrawn from friends, family and society in general
- appear anxious and agitated
- are unable to sleep or they sleep all the time
- have sudden mood swings – a sudden lift in mood after a period of depression could indicate they have made the decision to attempt suicide
- talk and act in a way that suggests their life has no sense of purpose
- lose interest in most things, including their appearance
- put their affairs in order, such as sorting out possessions or making a will
If you notice any of these warning signs in a friend, relative or loved one, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.
Also share your concerns with your doctor or a member of their care team, if they are being treated for a mental health condition.
Responding to warning signs of suicide
Speak up if you are worried
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.
You might be worried that you might ‘put the idea of suicide into the person’s head’ if you ask about suicide. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing your concern. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can give relief from isolation and pent-up negative feelings, and may reduce the risk of a suicide attempt.
How to start a conversation about suicide:
- I am worried about you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
- I have noticed that you have been doing (state behaviour), is everything ok?
Questions you can ask
- What can I do to help you?
- What supports have you called on so far?
What you can say that helps
- I want to help you and I am here for your when you want to talk.