Monday 10th September is World Suicide Prevention Day. We invited Clare Dickens, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health at the University of Wolverhampton, to feature in our blog.
A recent Office For National Statistics report has noted that rates of suicide are steadily decreasing for men and women but, tragically, are rising in adolescents. Still, over 4000 people died last year and each number represents a tragedy, and we cannot become complacent. Zero can be our only aim.
Suicide is not an inevitable outcome of a suicidal thought; the thoughts pass and are indicators of distress and a desire to escape emotional pain. Talking to someone can help and, even if you find the advice or response unhelpful, consider that this is likely coming from a deep place of concern or fear about getting it wrong; we have centuries of steeped perceptions and ideas piling around this issue and we were born into these understandings.
Helping somebody else
Expressing a suicidal thought is not attention seeking, nor is anyone threatening suicide. Think instead that someone is connection seeking, offering a permission to help them which, on reflection, is a privilege and there is clearly something they trust in you to do that. Listen and encourage help-seeking. These thoughts can beset anyone – they are not necessarily symptoms of illness, more so distress.
Think about language
Suicide is not a criminal offence, therefore, no-one commit‘s suicide. This criminal connotation could make it less likely for someone struggling with suicidal thoughts to discuss their feelings. ‘Unsuccessful suicide attempt’? Do we successfully die of anything else in this country?
Be gentle with yourself
I have to reflect that we judge ourselves far more harshly than we ever would do anyone else – we can be our own worst enemy! If we find ourselves in deep distress, think about what we’d advise someone we love. Speak those words to yourself. I could go on but I’ll leave the last word to one of my favourite thinkers, Albert Camus: