The Ripple Effect and Public Health

Suicide has a ripple effect that reaches far beyond immediate family and close friends of those who take their own lives. This ripple effect is responsible for suicide becoming a major public health concern.

But just how major is this issue? The answer lies in this year’s statistics which highlight the damning facts of suicide and the wider affect therein.

Completed Suicides

Over 700,000 people take their own lives each year. Current research suggests that for each completed suicide, up to 135 people are affected. That means 94,500,000 people are impacted by completed suicides every year. 

Suicide Attempts

For every completed suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts. That equates to 14,000,000 suicide attempts every year. If we shorten the ripple effect for suicide attempts to just immediate family, close friends and colleagues, research suggests the number of people in this close circle is at least 15, meaning at least 210,000,000 people are affected by suicide attempts. 

Suicidal Ideation

1 in 5 people aged 13 years or older experience suicidal thoughts. That’s 20% of the world’s population, or 1,287,249,831 people. A high percentage of these individuals will keep suicidal thoughts to themselves, opting not to speak openly about their suicidal ideations and therefore, the ripple effect from suicidal ideation would be minimal. 

The Extensive Impact of Suicide on Public Health Revealed

Suicide, completed and attempted, as well as suicidal ideation, impacts a minimum of a staggering 1,591,749,831 people worldwide. To put that in perspective, that’s the entire population of the US, the UK, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Vietnam, Japan, France, Germany, Russia, Canada, South Africa, Turkey, Greece, Israel and Ireland, combined

It’s important to remember that in calculating these figures, we only have access to reported data and have no way of knowing how many individuals struggle with suicidal thoughts in silence or how many suicide attempts go unreported. Sadly, this means the most accurate depiction of the number of people impacted by suicide would be undoubtably higher.

What do these revelations truly mean?
Aside from establishing that suicide is a public health problem of epic purportions, it highlights the importance of suicide prevention now more than ever and stresses the urgency of implementing strategies to scale back the ripple effect of suicide. 


Suicide Prevention and Stigma

Suicide prevention begins with awareness. What people believe about suicide determines what people do about suicide prevention. Talking openly and honestly about suicide and educating the public about suicide are key elements of suicide awareness. Awareness is essential to breaking down the stigma associated with suicide. 

Stigma is one of the biggest barriers to suicide prevention because it intensifies the shame and guilt often accompanying suicidal thoughts and behaviors, therefore reducing the likelihood of suicidal individuals seeking support. 

An effective suicide prevention plan must incorporate strategies to eliminate the stigma that may prevent individuals from reaching out for support. 

One strategy that PoetsIN is very passionate about is fighting stigma with education and a good way to educate is debunking myths that have become widely accepted as facts. Like most mental illnesses, suicide has several myths that many people still believe to be true. 


Common Myths About Suicide

  • Talking about suicide encourages suicidal people to take their own lives.
    The opposite is true. Talking with someone about their suicidal thoughts helps ease the intensity of their emotions and provides them a safe space where they can get the support they need. 
  • All suicidal people are fully intent on dying and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.
    Most are undecided right up until the very last minute, with many not actually wanting to die, but wanting to end the intense pain they are experiencing. The idea that nothing can be done to stop a suicidal person from ending their life is dangerous and entirely inaccurate. Creating hope through support and compassion can be exactly what is needed to get through the intense pain they are experiencing. 
  • People who talk about suicide are seeking attention and won’t actually do it.
    What might be perceived as attention seeking is likely a cry for help. All suicidal comments and behaviors must be taken seriously.
  • A person who attempts suicide will always be suicidal.
    Emotions, circumstances, access to support and proper treatment, and mental health status are factors that can change at any time. A good way to visualise the fluctuating changes of one’s mental health is understanding the mental health continuum, which you can read about here: Mental health for all – the continuum – The Creative Mental Health Charity PoetsIN™ 
  • Suicide always occurs without warning.
    8 out of 10 people who take their own lives give warning signs. They may be direct, such as stating things like “I’m going to kill myself” or “I wish I were dead”, but they can also be indirect, such as statements like “everyone will be better off without me” or “no one would care if I died”. Behavioural clues can include withdrawing from activities previously enjoyed, taking dangerous risks, giving away important items and displaying extreme mood swings. 
  • Improvement following a suicidal crisis means the risk is over or has decreased significantly.
    The truth is that most suicides occur within 3 months of the onset of improvement. What appears to be an improvement may in fact be a sense of relief in the person who has decided to complete suicide.

Now that you’re armed with these facts you can help break the stigma of suicide by educating others.

Creating Hope Through Action

The theme for World Suicide Prevention Day is ‘Creating Hope Through Action’ and there are several ways everyone can join in supporting suicide prevention. Together we can create hope and save lives. 

Creating hope begins with kindness. Actively practising kindness, empathy and compassion has a ripple effect of its own and reaches further than you might think is possible.. One act of kindness can become the hope that someone needs to make it through their darkest moments. 

Take action and educate yourself about suicide. Talk about suicide. Fight the stigma surrounding suicide by spreading awareness and challenging myths. And most importantly, offer your support to those who are struggling and to anyone experiencing a suicidal crisis. 

Unsure of how to support someone who is suicidal?

Below is a descriptive acronym created by Worklife Connections EAP psychologist, Chad Buck, that may help you. 

Believe Acronym for Supporting Someone Who is Suicidal

B – Believe that suicidal comments/gestures are serious 

E – Engage in conversation about thoughts and feelings –be gentle, but direct. You could begin by telling them you’ve noticed (insert comments, gestures, behaviours) and that you want them to know you are there for them to talk to. Reassure them you are a safe place for support.  

L – Listen without judgement or arguing –practise good listening skills by engaging in eye contact, mimicking their body language, repeating things they’ve said back to them to ascertain your accuracy in hearing them correctly and avoiding distractions. 

I – Investigate intent and access to lethal means –Ask if they have a plan and if so, if they have the means to follow through with their plan. Ask these questions gently so as to not make the person feel as though they are being interrogated. If there is access to lethal means, suggest removing them while you continue your conversation.

E – Express empathy for the person and situation –it is crucial to avoid statements that are not empathetic such as, “don’t be selfish”, “what about your children?” or “don’t you love me?”

V – Validate how difficult and painful this is for them – use validating statements like, “I can see how (insert what you’ve learned from engaging in conversation) would be painful for you” or “I understand how (insert what you’ve learned from engaging in conversation) has been difficult and painful for you.” 

E – Encourage them to seek support and escort the person to access help – Let the person know there are support services and resources available to help them and offer to accompany them during any calls/visits.

Remember that asking someone if they are having thoughts of suicide will not put the idea in their head to go through with it, so if you suspect someone you know might be considering suicide, talk to them about your concerns. Use what you have learned from the BELIEVE acronym to give them a safe space to talk openly and honestly. 

Your support has the potential to be the hope they need. 


Support Contacts

  • For immediate risk to life – call 999
  • First Responder Service – call 111 option 2
  • Samaritans – call 116 123 or email
  • Shout – text 85258
  • PoetsIN – email, contact us here, use our live chat feature or call on 02039240344
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