According to The National Office for Suicide Prevention’s statistics, In Ireland 342 people lost their lives to suicide in 2018. For each death by suicide, at least 135 people will be impacted by that death, and a third of those touched by the death will also suffer consequences such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and, possibly, suicide attempts. The far reaching effects of suicide make it a community problem not one person’s failure. The theme for this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day is ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’. There are five steps that you can follow to help lower the risk of suicide within your community.
1. Understand suicide
Over the years suicide has been a stigmatized topic that many are fearful to discuss, this is largely due to a lack of knowledge on the topic. Understanding suicide can help remove that stigma and encourage people to seek the help and support they need. Suicide is a behaviour that is seen across all societies, demographics, personalities, occupations and socio-economic statuses. The cause of suicide can be very difficult to pinpoint, the reason for this is the complexity of the behaviour, genetics, trauma and environmental factors often play a role. The choice for someone to take their own life can never be attributed to one specific cause but, instead a complex chain of events and circumstances. What we know for certain from survivors of suicide, that they often feel hopeless and fear being rejected if they seek help. Suicide is not a cowardly act or a moral failure on the part of the person but, instead seen as a way to escape the pain they have been feeling.
Step 2. Know the signs
Most people who plan suicide will display some warning signs. This is why understanding warning signs can go a long way to preventing suicide. Some signs people may present with are: Talking about suicide, dying, or self-harm; Having no hope for the future, feeling helpless and hopeless; Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred; Feeling like a burden; Getting affairs in order; Withdrawing from others; Self-destructive behaviour including increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving etc.; Sudden sense of calm.
Step 3. Speak up
One myth surrounding suicide is that by asking a vulnerable individual about suicide, you may give them the idea. This is not true, in fact by showing compassion, concern and empathy you will instead allow that individual to release and feelings they are holding in. Here are some suggestions on how to have that conversation.
Ways to start a conversation about suicide: “I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
“I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.”
Questions to ask: “When did you begin feeling like this?” “Have you thought about getting help?”
What you can say: “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.” “You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.”
Step 4. Supports in your area
Remember where there is life there is hope. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide do not wait, instead act quickly to get that person the help and support they need. The National office for Suicide prevention has launched a national strategy called connecting for life. The goal of this strategy is to lower suicide rates by empowering individuals and communities to improve their mental health and wellbeing, thus lowering suicide rates in Ireland. This strategy ensures that all communities have access to free or low cost supports within their area.
Step 5. Self-Care
Supporting someone who is suicidal can be a very daunting task; this is why you need to mind the minder. When on an airplane one of the safety talks they give you, is to ensure you have your own oxygen mask on before assisting others with theirs. This is not for selfish reasons; if you are not well then you cannot support others in their time of need. When you show self-love for your own well-being you have more compassion to give others. You can find tips on how to maintain positive mental health and well-being at yourmentalhealth.ie.
MSc in Psychology
is the Suicide Bereavement Liaison Officer for Roscommon