Welfare Wednesday: Suicide Awareness

*Trigger Warning: This post will discuss aspects of suicide and awareness.*

I recently completed a training with Zero Suicide Alliance and it reminded me of the importance of suicide. It's always been something I've been passionate about, as both a medical student, soon-to-be midwife and a citizen.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 800,000 people died by suicide in 2016, with 6,000 of these in the UK. This number is growing. It is the single leading cause of death in men under 50 years old, with males at 3 times more likely than women. Research shows that suicide is higher in areas of socioeconomic deprivation. The estimated cost to the UK economy per suicide is £1.7 million. Plus, each individual death can affect up to 20 people, including but not limited to family members, friends and front line service workers.

We need to talk about suicide because it is a preventable and avoidable cause of death. Everyone is able to help and support someone who is at risk. There is an urgent need to discuss suicide openly; we need to increase education and reduce stigma to help support. By encouraging these discussion, feelings will become less uncomfortable and it is hoped to help support those who truly need the support by empowering individuals to act. Those who spoke about their suicidal thoughts have said they felt lighter and less isolated, by addressing issues together.

There are so many myths around suicide. Using the word suicide does not put the thought into someone’s head, nor make it more likely to happen. It is helpful to be direct and not meander around the topic.

Something that struck me in the training was that "Suicide is often a permanent solution to a temporary problem". It is so true, it's often what people see as their last resort but it isn't. There is always another way through it and everyone should have basic skills and knowledge to help support those struggling. Even though we can't all be experts, involvement could make all the difference.
  1. See the problem: ensure you are aware of signs and symptoms. 
  2. Say the words: address the individual and be transparent, open and honest. 
  3. Signpost to support: be prepared with numbers and organisations, think ahead to plan what could happen.
When talking, it is important to ask open ended questions and give them time to explore their feelings and the opportunity for them to guide the conversation. Regardless of what they sat, take them seriously and try not to judge. Some resources I find useful are:

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