“Creating hope through action” is the triennial theme for the World Suicide Prevention Day to remind us all there is an alternative to suicide and aims to inspire confidence and light in all of us.
This blog is not intended to treat, diagnose, and/or cure any mental health illness. This guide provides statistics and helpful starting points on how to start the conversation around suicide, if you find any of the content distressing, please seek professional advice from your physician, mental health professional or any qualified healthcare provider. We have resources at the end of this blog for extra support from professional organisations and charities.
World Suicide Prevention Day, the 10th of September, highlights the importance of reducing stigma around suidiice to raise awareness among organisations, government, and the public, giving a singular message that suicide can be prevented. This is the second part of our World Suicide Prevention Day blog, this focuses on how to have conversations and gives practical support backed by Mental Health Charities across the UK and our VISTA Psychologists. If you haven’t already, go check out Part One of our World Suicide Prevention Day.
What does it mean to be Suicidal?
Suicidal feelings can be confusing, scary and extremely complex. They can range from having more free floating thoughts about not wanting to be here to more concrete plans about how and when life could end. Some people feel less like they want to die, and more that they want the pain and difficulty to end. The two things can often get confused.
People experiencing suicidal thoughts might feel:
- Hopeless or trapped,
- Tearful, anxious or overwhelmed by negative thoughts,
- Tempted to do risky or reckless things because they don’t care what happens to them,
- Like they want to avoid other people.
Factors Leading to Suicidal Feelings
Suicide is not only often a taboo subject but it is also a complex one – there is no single explanation of why people die by suicide.
However, we do know that there are multiple different risk factors, including:
- Previous suicide attempts, or previous self-harm,
- Being unemployed or in part-time / contract work,
- Having a physical health problem, including chronic pain which affects mood,
- Living alone or feeling isolated,
- Being dependent on alcohol or drugs,
- Bereavement or break-ups,
- Having mental health problems.
There may not be an obvious reason why someone feels suicidal. But whatever the cause, there is help available (please see resources at the end of this information).
How Can you Help?
As a listener people don’t have to be an expert- just being there to show that people care can help them work through what’s going on. If someone does share that they are having suicidal thoughts, they should always be taken seriously. We can help by letting them know they’re not a burden and there’s always someone they can turn to – whether it’s a family member or friend, a GP, the workplace EAP service or a 24/7 helpline like Samaritans (please see resources at THE end of the blog).
The Samaritans are passionate in giving the message that it’s OK to ask about suicidal thoughts. It could save a life. Understanding suicide and arming ourselves with signposting resources might just help someone when they need it. If you’re concerned about a friend, family member or colleague, make sure that you know where you can help to signpost them.
How to Start a Conversation
Simple actions can help support someone who is suicidal or recovering from an attempt to take their life.However, it can feel difficult to start these conversations. Samaritans has tips on how to be a good listener. Mind also has information on supporting someone who feels suicidal.
Samaritans suggest that just being there to listen and showing you care can help. Here are some tips on how to open up a conversation with someone if you’re worried about them:
- Choose a good time, and somewhere without distractions,
- Use open questions that need more than a yes/no answer,
- ‘How are things, I’ve noticed you don’t seem quite yourself?’,
- Listen well. ‘How’s that making you feel?’,
- Avoid giving your view of what’s wrong, or what they should do.
It’s normal to feel anxious about asking someone if they’re suicidal, but it could save someone’s life. The Samaritans suggest avoiding saying things like ‘you’re not thinking of doing something stupid are you?’. Instead, being patient and showing care builds trust and helps someone
Having Conversations in the Workplace
The IASP suggests that suicide-specific approaches can include training programmes, workplace communication strategies that validate people’s lived experience with suicide, peer support, mental health services, self-care empowerment, and crisis response plans.
According to BITC, a safe and healthy workplace can be achieved by:
- Promoting good mental health and destigmatising mental health problems
- Reducing stress at work
- Preventing and taking action against bullying and harassment
- Extending support and psychological health services
- Educating and training managers and other key staff
This enables employees to:
- Realise their full potential,
- Work productively,
- Have positive relationships,
- Make good choices,
- Deliver excellent customer service.
At VISTA we help enable companies to create a workplace culture that promotes mental and physical wellbeing, which can help prevent people from experiencing ill health, and/or helps them better manage mental health issues. Most suicides are preventable with appropriate interventions. Constantly measure your company well being and culture. Use these insights to act. Promote good mental health in your workplace all year round and talk about mental health and stress within teams. This will help promote overall wellbeing and reduce stigma attached to mental health issues and allow you to provide a more supportive, understanding environment. Remember to also keep in touch with workers who are home working or may be more remote and isolated. Promote good wellbeing and help people whether they are struggling or thriving. We have a free Resource which you can download, send to your colleagues, family and friends. Go check out our website to keep updated or follow us on LinkedIn.