As part of our Mental Health 101 series, we explore the science of positive psychology and consider how we can embed its core principles, both individually and at work.
Suicide is the cause of an alarming number of deaths in the modern world. According to the World Health Organisation, almost one million people die by suicide each year and many millions more make attempts to end their lives.
Every suicide represents someone’s partner, child, friend, family member or colleague, and every suicide has a profound impact on communities, families and workplaces. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) says for each suicide, approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected.
Suicide rates in the UK have increased to the highest level since 2002
Suicide prevention has presented a global challenge for many years and it consistently ranks among the top 20 leading causes of death for people of all ages worldwide. In the UK we saw a steady decline in suicide since 2013, but recent statistics have exposed a worrying change in this trend. New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that suicide rates in the UK in 2018 hit the highest level in 16 years, marking a 12% increase on the previous year.
Although men continue to account for three-quarters of suicides in the UK, particular concern has been raised over the increase in the rates of suicide in young people under 25. The death rates for this age group has reached a 19-year high, with rates for young women reaching an all-time high.
Ged Flynn, Chief Executive of PAPYRUS, the charity devoted to preventing young suicide commented, “We must never forget that suicide is the leading cause of death in all young people in the 10-34 age range. The ONS data released reminds us that women, and particularly young women, are self-injuring and ending their own lives in increasing numbers.”
To echo this Ruth Sunderland, Chief Executive of Samaritans, said: “It is extremely worrying that, for the first time in five years, the suicide rate in the UK has increased… In particular, in recent years the rate of suicide in young people has increased, and the suicide rate in young females under-25 is now the highest on record.”
Our Head of Psychology, Dr Heather Bolton commented, “It’s too early to speculate on the factors that might underpin this recent increase in suicide rates but these stats do bolster the argument that more needs to be done. Suicide is absolutely devastating but it’s also preventable. We need to raise public awareness, break down the barriers that stop people talking openly and make it easier for people to access support when they need it.”
Every member of society is integral to suicide prevention. On this World Suicide Prevention Day, we can all raise awareness about the issue, educate ourselves and others about its causes and warning signs, and attempt to smash the stigma of suicide by starting open and honest conversations about it.
The IASP says prevention requires integrated strategies that address the individual, the systems and community levels. Suicide prevention efforts will be much more effective if they span several levels whilst incorporating multiple paths for intervention.
Ged Flynn of PAPYRUS goes on to state that, “We must renew our efforts in this country to do all we can to intervene and stop preventable deaths among young men and women. Listening is good but we often need to offer more. Practical advice and safety planning are important. We can also engage in emergency help to people in distress. This means sharing information to keep people suicide-safe.”
Unmind’s Talking About Suicide series
Last year Unmind collaborated with Jonny Benjamin MBE, an award-winning mental health campaigner and author of The Stranger on the Bridge. Together we produced our Talking About Suicide series which aims to break down the stigma around suicide and enable people to have more open conversations.
In the series, Jonny spoke candidly about his own experiences of suicide, describing his suicidal thoughts and feelings as an all-consuming pain. He firmly believes that suicide is preventable and that talking about it is key.
As part of our Talking About Suicide series, we touched on how to ask someone about suicidal thoughts. One of the key messages was that asking about suicidal thoughts won’t put ideas in someone’s head. It might feel awkward but by choosing the right time and place, taking a gentle approach and trying to show you understand, you can pave the way for a supportive conversation. Simply listening and showing that you care can be enough to start someone on a better trajectory.
World Suicide Prevention Day is a great opportunity to start conversations, but we need to keep these going every day of the year.
If you’re feeling suicidal, it’s important to remember that things won’t feel this hopeless forever and to connect with people who can help you.
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. It’s free and entirely confidential.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14.
Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
If you want to find out more information about the Unmind Talking About Suicide series please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.