Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s an occasion close to my heart since three people I know have died by suicide, including a delightful young man who was my boyfriend for the last two years of school. He was wonderful, and my mum once observed that he ran ‘like a gazelle’.
More than 800,000 people die by suicide each year around the world, and the rates are much higher for men. But the issue can, of course, affect anyone and everyone.
So what can we do about it? The key is to reach out when you need help, and to reach out to friends and family to see how they’re doing too: It’s that simple, and that difficult. Especially when you take into account how challenging it can be to ask for help, or to talk about something so personal when you might be worried about judgement or even upsetting others.
It may be a cliché, but the first step really is recognising that there’s something wrong and you need help. Talking to someone you know and trust could be a massive relief, and they could help you find the support you need long term. They could also help make sure you’re fed, watered and doing alright in the meantime: It might be scary to start the conversation, but it’ll be worth it.
Not ready? You might prefer to open up to a stranger first, and don’t worry, there are services out there that are open 24/7 and ready to help:
- Samaritans: Freephone 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, available 24/7
- Pieta House: pieta.ie 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444, available 24/7
- Aware: aware.ie Tel: 1800 80 48 48 or email email@example.com
You could also make an appointment with your GP, who can help refer you to mental health services, or start a course of treatment which may include therapy or medication.
“Suicide is preventable, but not selfish. Suicide is, normally, death caused by the illness of depression. It is the final symptom. A final collapse under unbearable weight. Suicide is a tragedy. If you have never been close to that edge try not to judge what you can’t understand.”
Worried about someone else?
Put that kettle on, and start the conversation. You don’t need to have all the answers, all you really need to do is listen with a bit of empathy. Here are some top tips:
Don’t judge: Do your best to use appropriate and non-judgmental language: The person you’re talking to might be defensive, or unprepared to talk about how they’re feeling.
Don’t try to ‘fix it’: You don’t need to offer all the answers, you just need to show you are there, and you want to understand. Encourage them to open up by asking open-ended questions, or make it clear that they can talk when they’re ready – don’t be discouraged by a negative response.
Be patient: You don’t need to fully understand everything someone is going through, just helping them feel listened to can make the difference – instead, encourage them to open up at their own pace.
Ask the big questions: yourmentalhealth.ie advises that if you’re really worried that someone is thinking about suicide, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask the direct question – “are you feeling suicidal?” The best thing you can do is to listen to them without judgement or blame.
You can find out more about available supports from the HSE here.