Who is responsible for suicide prevention?

Who do you think is responsible for suicide prevention?

Who is responsible for suicide prevention?
Who is responsible for suicide prevention? Image from Unsplash

TRIGGER WARNING. After my last post, Increased suicide rates during a recession, a comment from a blogging friend got me thinking. What more can we do to raise awareness and prevent suicide? Moreover, who should be responsible for suicide prevention? Should it be our governments, leaders, the NHS and charities, or are doctors and nurses responsible?

I’d say yes they all are, but I’d also add that, in fact, we are all responsible.

We all have a moral, familial and social responsibility surely, to prevent suicide and to save lives? But to do this, I believe, we have to break down the stigma around mental illness and suicide, and actually talk about it.

Would you start a conversation up about suicide today, tomorrow; with your colleagues, friends, class mates or teachers/lecturers? And if not, why not?

Suicide is too important to ignore

Suicide prevention - stop him from dying by suicide
Suicide prevention – stop him from dying by suicide

While suicide is a difficult topic, it occurs too often, so it’s too important to ignore. Suicide knows no boundaries and cuts across all ages, class or gender. It’s the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.

Despite a common belief that only teens and adults die by suicide, younger children can also be at risk. “We know that children as young as 5 commit die by suicide and that it happens to the very old, as well,” says Psychology today, 2020. (I edited out the word commit, as that word still has connotations of committing a crime). Suicide is no longer a crime, yet it remains a tragedy.

The real tragedy of suicide is that it’s a permanent solution to what should be a temporary problem.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Burden of Disease study estimate that almost 800,000 people die from suicide every year. That’s one person every 40 seconds. Due to the stigma associated with suicide – and the fact that it is illegal in some countries – this figure is also likely to be an underestimate, with some suicides being classified as unintentional injuries.

There are many different reasons for suicide or attempted suicide, and these might include feelings of loss, low self-worth, isolation. It’s also known that depression and suicide often go together. But not everyone who’s depressed is suicidal and not everyone who’s suicidal is depressed.

And still we don’t talk about it, or if we do we use language that judges, stigmatises, discriminates, and condemns.

Elephant in the room

Suicide - the elephant in the room
Suicide — The elephant in the room – Image from MGEU

So, in order to prevent suicide, first we must address it — the proverbial elephant in the room. We need talk about it, often and more openly. We need to educate ourselves. Preventing suicide will not happen on it’s own.

There’s plenty of online information and resources available:

I won’t patronise you by listing details from every country. I just wanted to let you have some idea of the resources that are available out there. We could be using these resources. Why not adapt them to suit your area or audience, to open up a conversation about suicide prevention.

Moreover, we ought to be looking out for our loved ones and others in our communities. What about the youngster always alone in the park, or the teenager sleeping on the streets. Then there’s the old lady next door who never seems to have any visitors? Or a colleague, maybe even our boss, who looks like they’re struggling to keep it together?

Suicide is not without pain

The pain of suicide and loss
The pain of suicide and loss — Image Unsplash

Every suicide is a tragedy, and many will ask themselves later if there’s anything they could have done to prevent it. They’ll feel the pain, grief, loss, and devastation at having lost someone to suicide. This in turn can lead to guilt, anger, depression, shame and possible thoughts of suicide.

And so the circle continues. Whole generations of families dying by suicide. Did you know that two of the most prevalent risk factors for suicide are family history of suicide, and family history of psychiatric illness. A well-known case is the novelist Ernest Hemingway’s family, in which five members over four generations died from completed suicides, The Independent.

Mind writes that “While every type of grief has the potential to cause intense and complex feelings, research shows that people bereaved by suicide can have a particularly complex set of feelings and can experience additional struggles and dilemmas in trying to resolve their grief.

Suicide can have a ripple effect, extending well beyond the person’s immediate family and friends. How we are affected will depend on our relationship to the person who has died, the strength of the attachment and the circumstances around the death.”

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) are a great source of support for people who have been bereaved by suicide. See the SOBS website for details of their helpline, local support groups and many more practical resources.

Let’s talk about suicide

Old lady contemplating suicide
Sad old lady might be contemplating suicide — Photo by Pexels.com

Why don’t we talk about suicide — in schools and universities, at work, in the pub?

I refuse to believe it’s because people don’t care or they turn their eyes and pretend not to see?

Is it because we live in a world full of shame, stigma and a lack of understanding or empathy? Perhaps we just don’t know how to talk about suicide?

We need to educate ourselves and teach others; informing them that suicide is preventable. We need to use our social media in a more positive way to support, encourage and show kindness to others. Perhaps we could start by paying a little more attention, and really see what’s going on around us. Have you noticed the old lady or the lone teenager? Did you walk on by and look the other way?

Start a conversation

Two mates not talking about suicide?
From freepik.com

There are many ways to initiate a discussion about suicide. Simply asking someone how they feel, or asking about their day is enough to start a conversation. Think about how much this might mean to someone, particularly the elderly? They often live alone, have no company for days on end, or don’t speak to anyone on the telephone.

My previous post was about the warning signs, risk factors and how to support someone who feels suicidal. So now we’ll look at how we can introduce the topic of suicide and suicide prevention. Talk to your pals, colleagues, in team meetings, children, at the pub:

  • Ask “Did you know it’s World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) on 10th September?”
  • Ask have they ever thought about the concept of suicide or its impact, what do they think of WSPD and why we have WSPD.
  • Have a discussion about how we can prevent suicide by finding out how spot the risks, the signs and how to support someone who is struggling.
  • Explain the myths and stigma around mental illness and suicide.
  • See if the know the suicide rates of their own country, perhaps in comparison to another country.
  • Show them some local, national or global statistics
  • Suggest they tell their friends or use their social media to raise awareness of suicide prevention.
Lone teenager feeling suicidal —Photo Pexels.com

Just get the conversation started. Put Suicide Awareness posters up in your bedroom, at school, the staffroom, your office, the lift at work, anywhere (legally). Later, ask others if they’ve seen them — and there’s the start of a conversation.

Contrary to some beliefs, suicide isn’t selfish. It’s someone’s desperate and overwhelming struggle. Many don’t actually want to die, they want to be rid of the pain and suffering they’re experiencing. And this is where we can all help — by being more vigilant, supporting others in need, being aware and informing others.

Over to you

Think about suicide prevention

Do you think we all have a responsibility to prevent suicide? Would you put the World Suicide Prevention Day posters on the walls and leave WSPD resources around your place of work? Would you start up a conversation about suicide today, tomorrow; with your colleagues, friends, classmates or teachers/lecturers? And if not, why not? I’m really interested in your opinions and look forward to any comments, questions or constructive criticism.

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

43 thoughts on “Who is responsible for suicide prevention?”

      1. My own crusade against bad mental health is about listening and having time for people. I’ve lost dear friends and their own families have denied to everyone that they committed suicide because of the children. I no longer point people in the direction of the doctor…sad to say. More recently I got my bipolar friend singing when he was so low last week. They had refused him access on the bus without a mask, he has copd too so doesn’t have to wear one. Doctor told him to look on the internet for a exemption badge…the man is in his sixty’s and just about manages to use a phone.. Just be there for people right now. Check on them. Don’t think NHS mental health can help as they’ve decided that they know what bad mental health looks like and it isn’t us lol…stuck in it.

      2. I’m glad you have your own crusade going Samantha 😉 but it sounds like you been through a rotten time with mental health services. I was a mental health nurse and ward manager and I too can attest to some bad doctor and nursing care. Some were a law unto themselves — until I landed on their wards, lol.

        That’s terrible too, what your friend had to go through. This Covid thingy has a lot to answer for — all of a sudden staff like bus drivers have become ‘jobsworths’ — You can’t walk this way! No, go round that way, Take your mask off, put it on — aarrgghhh! don’t get me started lol.

        And I get it – while I’m computer literate, I hate this all on-line GP appointment stuff – I don’t know how to ‘activate’ the video on my phone and there’s no other way to be ‘seen’.

        I’m pretty grumpy and fed up with the whole thing right now – I desperately need a GP appointment (I have Transverse Myelitis) as I have some new/different symptoms but I can only talk about one symptom each appointment? They wonder why our anxiety/depression etc is going through the roof 🙂

      3. Hey, you are doing well. It is so hard trying to get help over the phone..then if you go down to see GP you are literally treated like a leper LMFAO. Your illness is rare like mine so you’d spend your ten appointment just getting the GP to understand your default health status let alone any extras! I dont envy you but respect you loads already. It’s nice to wp meet you.

      4. Nice to meet you too 🙂 Sounds like we got things in common Samantha. Oh yes. Apparently, we can apply for two appointments so you get thirty minutes. But when I’ve asked for 30 mins, I have to call the surgery after 8 a.m. And would you believe it, I’m stuck in a queue, with that deafening tinny music, and press no. 1 for blah blah. Then I have to wait 10 mins as they go through the options (up to five options) and by the time the message is finished and I’ve forgotten which number to press. Aarrgghhh. I want to punch the person who answers my call and tells me they have no appointments for today. Try again tomorrow!

      5. Promoting spirituality , closeness to nature that helps us stay balanced and connected or tuned in to life , volunteering , socializing in grpups hiking or swimming , taking care of animals and treating them well are all ways to uplift ourselves …
        Meditation and refraining from overthinking and accepting the present moment no matter what , doing what we can , and being honest as much as we can also help …
        All the best from Lebanon to the world …

  1. I think we also need treatment options that are a) more available and accessible, and b) more effective than what we’ve got now. For those suffering from severe symptoms of illness, that’s a very different sphere of prevention than the folks who would benefit from greater awareness.

    1. Developed Physiotherapy and psychiatrists can help more if they get well trained and experienced .
      Another tip would be going to nature in groups small or large , plus taking care of animals help a lot …

    2. Ah! Great point Ashley. I missed that one – a biggie too – medication. And again, you’re right about the ‘different horses for different courses 🙂 Your input is always appreciated.

    1. Not sure whoever wrote this “The real tragedy of suicide is that it’s a permanent solution to what should be a temporary problem.” and I think I agree with it.

      I know when I’ve felt suicidal and later when that feeling has gone, I’ve been glad that I didn’t kill myself.

      I don’t see it bad or good, just many people don’t actually want to die, they just want rid of the pain and struggles they’re experiencing.

      I can understand it in certain cases, i.e. chronic pain, illness, older people — but who am I to judge lol.

      1. I think it’s a cruel irony that society, in general, sees suicide as a bad thing, but it quite content to function in such a way as to make people feel suicidal.

  2. I love your insights here and the dialogue it creates.
    Just this weekend I called someone who I was concerned about and he and his mother were in bad places and one phone call can and does make a difference at times.
    Unfortunately, we can’t save everyone but more awareness helps.

    I remember how sad we were when Robin Williams committed suicide and yet he made a very concious choice knowing he had physical conditions that would later be determined as Lewy body dimentia and was affecting his brain and paranoia etc set in. He tried desperartly to seek many approaches of treatment to reboot his brain as he said was which weren’t working. His wife was beside hereself and couldn’t help him describing it as it as his body being taken over by this disease. She firmly beleives it would have prolonged his agony. Although we were all saddened by this, It was his choice and I’m only sad there weren’t some human ways for the family to all have closure back then.

    Thanks for speaking up and bringing awarness we so desparately need 🙏

    1. Thank you for your insightful comments Cindy. I’m glad you took the time to contact that ‘someone’ and his mother – it does help.

      Yes, RW made a conscientious choice and I think I would have done the same. That’s how I felt when I was first diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder, but once I was able to walk almost properly I felt differently.

      Of course, it’s always sad when someone dies by suicide, but if they’ve made that choice like RW I would understand.

      I saw several death by suicides as a mental health nurse and speaking to their families afterwards, they said they understood, and that it was terrible for them having to watch their child/mum/brother suffer for years.

      I’m glad you appreciate my post Cindy, thank you again.

  3. If we’re going to talk about bringing more attention to this issue or try our best to talk someone out of suicide, then we also need to pressure lawmakers and other decision-makers to allocate more money and resources to mental health. Insurance companies also need to provide better coverage for mental health services. What good is it to convince someone not to commit suicide if they can’t access much-needed therapy and/or medication?

    1. Oh, I’m with you on that one 100% but who’s going to do it? I constantly write, tweet, email our MP’s, our Prime Minister, the NHS and care organisations. And I know lots of other people do too. But most of the people that make these requests have mental illnesses themselves (me included) and it’s so tiring.

      It’s demoralising that it’s up to the people who have mental illnesses, rather than the public or others in our communities. People complain all the time about “the nutters” living in my building, but wouldn’t it be more productive if they wrote letters, and raised awareness with others in a more positive way?

      As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.” – Paul Shane Spear #quotes #inspiring #Mentalhealth awareness #mentalhealth

  4. We definitely need to talk about suicide and mental health in general a lot more and we need to be a lot less judgmental about it. There is so much stigma surrounding mental health problems that people are terrified to seek help and that is one of the reasons they end up taking their own lives.

    1. Someone’s already mentioned that we should be informing our governments etc, but like I said, it’s exhausting for people with mental illness, having to keep writing, calling, emailing and tweeting our ‘Leaders’ and lawmakers.

      It’s the people who call out “nutters”, “madman” in the streets that ought to help by being more understanding and writing to our Leaders to ask for better healthcare for those of us with mental illness 🙁

  5. When I was 14, I told a few people at school I wanted to kill myself. Someone overheard me and told the school counselor, and I got called out of class the next day to make sure I was ok. I felt bad at the time, because really I said that more just for attention, and I didn’t need to waste everyone’s time and make them worry about me. But I’m really glad my friend said something.

    I came to faith at 19. For a long time, I thought that that would be enough, that I would always have enough hope to hold on to that I would never get to that point again. But honestly, I feel like I’m closer to suicidal now than I’ve been in decades, because of all the hopelessness in the world right now… sometimes it just feels like I don’t want to keep living like this anymore, and it’s never going to change.

    In related news, there’s this song. Sometimes I cry listening to it. I’ve heard it’s based on a true story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTjimzpyE4k

    1. I’m glad and it’s great that your friend did tell the teacher. Expressing suicidal ideation isn’t something we can ignore.

      Oh, I hear you! I also experience suicidal and never thought I’d get to the planning stage again. Like you, I’m find it difficult and for the same reasons, along with my own setbacks and both physical and mental illness. I do wonder why I should keep going.

      Thank you for the song, it’s beautiful and the words are powerful and so real, even though I’m not a believer.

  6. I think yes we do all have a responsibility when it comes to this. It sounds so simple but I think just by being more mindful of the words we use played off as a joke could go a long way to helping those that are struggling to not feel so isolated. For example, I hear all the time in work that he or she “went nuts” or “is loopy” etc and whilst no harm may be meant it could be having an effect on somebody else. Nobody is perfect and we all slip up and say the wrong thing sometimes but we should keep trying.

    As for bringing it up in conversation, to be honest I’m not sure I would be brave enough to instigate the conversation. Why? I’m not sure, but I would definitely participate if somebody else began talking.

    1. Of course, nobody’s perfect and we all slip up – even me 😉 And I think it’s important that we watch our (and that of others) language when talking mental illness. I know it might be difficult to confront or challenge someone else’s use of derogatory words. But I still do it anyway. Particularly if I know the person reasonably well. I’d say something like “Hey, come on. That’s not a nice way to talk.”

      It can often lead to opening up the dialogue about mental illness and suicide. Let me know if you do try it and how you felt 🙂

      Would you ask to put World Suicide Prevention Day posters up in your workplace?
      I’d be interested to know Jess.

      1. Yes I would definitely ask and in fact I feel compelled to do so after reading your recent posts so I think I’ll have a word with my manager when I go to work this evening and see how she responds. I think a lot of people would be reluctant to do so because they’d be worried that people may judge them as somebody who has struggled with suicidal thoughts – there’s that stigma again! But for me that wouldn’t concern me, I don’t see it as a weakness so even though I haven’t struggled with suicidal thoughts I would be fine with somebody thinking that, particularly if it was helpful to somebody else 😊

      2. You little angel, I’m so proud of you. That’s good to hear Jess, that you’re willing to open up a conversation about suicide prevention.

        Yes, that awful word “stigma” again. It wouldn’t bother me either, I’m a bit too old to start caring about what people think of me lol.

        Thank you Jess and well done.

  7. I have no problem discussing suicide but I’ve noticed that it’s not that easy to notice at all. People talk sometimes in covert terms about it. It’s always worth to ask that one little question extra.
    An open dialogue should always be encouraged.
    Ps When I say that I have no problem talking about it, it’s about ‘the other people’. I can listen and I’m not afraid of the topic. I will not judge but try to simply ‘be there’. Also listening for expressions of suicidal ideation is very important too imo.

    I myself find it very hard to open up about suicidal thoughts because I assume (and that’s bad) that people will not understand. So keeping the conversation going is crucial to break the isolation where you can find yourself in, when dealing with those issues.

    1. My wee mum taught me “Ye cannae get sent to the jail for your thoughts.” Kacha, and depending on the patient or person, I’ve used that, following up with “thoughts” are just that – “thoughts” and most of our thoughts are automatic (ANTs) and we have no control over them. It’s when someone has a plan that alarm bells start to ring, for me. I’ve asked of both patients and my sons’ “Do you have a plan, the method and the means?”

      I appreciate how difficult it is Kacha, and of course, lots of people don’t understand. My hubby tries to understand, bless him, and he thinks that by taking me away with friends this weekend, I’ll feel better. Even though I’ve told him I’d rather be alone!

      Maybe I’ll have a good time and maybe it will help me forget things for a while.

      1. I hope your hubby is right and that the weekend will take your mind of of things. Sometimes we need to trust our loved ones, they do know us well.
        I wish you a rejuvenating and enjoyable weekend!

  8. I think we all have a responsibility to prevent suicide, but we don’t all have the same responsibility. There is so much work to be done in so many different areas that it’s important to find what you can do. For some it’s spreading awareness, for others its going deeper into treatment and resources. It looks different for everyone! Thank you for this post and putting this information out there, I don’t think we can say it enough!

  9. Thank you for sharing these tips and resources, as well as countering a few of the misconceptions around suicide in your post. Especially with children, I think there’s a dangerous blindspot because they are often assumed to be innocent and simple, and therefore couldn’t be considering death. But they are complex human beings too. None of us is immune to the pain and pressures that can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions, but we can take steps to recognize and support those who are currently experiencing such thoughts and actions.

    1. Yes, many people don’t think children are aware or capable. When a child dies by suicide, sometimes parents/families like to believe that their death was accidental. Cos anything else is too difficult to comprehend.

      I made sure it was something I discussed with the boys and let them know they can always talk to me, there would be nothing they couldn’t tell me.

      I think it’s important that parents open up a dialogue with children – about suicide and mental illness. Who’d have thought I five year old could ever feel so sad/angry/anxious that they consider suicide? It doesn’t seem real.

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