Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so it would be remiss of us not to talk about it. Needless to say, this article carries a whole pile of trigger warnings so if you are feeling fragile, stop here. That said, we simply cannot not talk about suicide.
Talking, communicating and opening up about such a difficult topic is paramount to helping the individuals that are more than just a statistic. They were and are a human being struggling to cope. If individuals choosing to end their life had known people were there for them, would they have acted differently? Maybe. We’re all different, but stats suggest that communication is helping.
Shocking Suicide Stats
The numbers are shocking. Last year there were 4,383 male suicides in the UK. That’s 15.5 per 100k men. Whilst down from 20 in every 100k in the late 1980s, it’s still 4,383 too many.
It’s encouraging that suicide rates among men in the UK are at their lowest for more than 30 years. With that said, men still account for three-quarters of suicides in the UK.
Men between the ages of 45 and 49 have the highest suicide rate, with 24.8 deaths per 100k people, the figures show. The suicide rate among women has remained stable for the past 10 years, with the 50- to 54-year-old age group having the highest suicide rate – 6.8 deaths per 100k.
Of the decrease in male suicides, Ruth Sutherland, head of the Samaritans, said “reducing stigma around men’s mental health and encouraging men to open up and seek help when they are struggling has been beneficial.”
But how can we help and what are the signs that someone we know and love is struggling so much that they may be considering taking their own life? Suicide is very often linked to depression, something that can often be hard to tell someone is suffering with.
As a man that suffers with depression and the co-founder of this mental health charity, this is something close to my heart. We all handle things differently, so externally, it’s hard to know. Often the loudest person in the room can be struggling with depression, whereas others will avoid even being seen in public. Here’s some common points to look out for:
You Don’t See Them Any More
Have you noticed someone that used to enjoy socialising no longer turns up? They may accept invitations to events and then pull out at the last moment; or could not respond at all. This could be a sign of the anxiety that attaches itself to someone suffering with depression.
When you see them, are they drinking excessively, smoking more than normal or doing drugs? They may come across as outrageous and overly humorous, trying to be the entertaining one to deflect from what they feel inside. Whilst they may be fine, they also may be wearing a mask.
Displaying Low Energy
If someone is tired all the time, and showing low levels of energy in every day life, they may be battling with depression. It’s a well know fact that Eeyore in Winnie the Poo was the personification of depression. If someone has become like Eeyore, talk to them.
Feeling isolated and alone is not just a huge part of depression, but a key factor in suicide. This can be something felt by circumstances – a move away, a death of a loved one, or friends growing apart and a social lifestyle change. It’s also not unusual for sufferers of depression to push people away either consciously or subconsciously. Keep an open mind and don’t be quick to judge. They may be struggling and need you despite displaying emotions to the contrary. They may even be testing you without realising it. If they don’t come to you, go to them.
Social Media Tone
Most of us are on social media. There are good and bad sides to it. It can provide us a place to vent, a place to have a community; but it can also have a negative impact on those susceptible to depression. If their posts continually display negativity and/or sadness, it may be a sign. It may take more than just a “you ok hun?” from you, but I tell you what, that is a great start.
Life is hectic and fast. The days turn into weeks and years, seemingly in the blink of an eye, and we can find ourselves no longer seeing people that we once considered family; or indeed our actual family. We all hold in our hands the means to communicate. So reach out and send that message you’ve been meaning to send. Email that person you used to consider a brother or sister from another mother or mister. It takes a few seconds, and you’ll be glad you did it.
Be patient, be subtle. Sometimes just the act of reaching out can itself be enough to smooth some emotional salve on existential bruises. You don’t need to ask if someone is depressed or suicidal; just give them the space to talk about it. Or not. Maybe they just want to talk about nothing of any value and have a laugh, like you used to do. That may just be enough to make all the difference.
Just Be There
Meet up for a coffee or drink. Get them round for a meal. Take a walk with them in the countryside or simply sit with them watching a film. Above all, be there and be present. Simply asking the question “Are you OK?” could literally be the difference between life and death.
Do it. Do it now. They may have thought you weren’t there for them, so be there for them.
Suicide leaves behind it a wake of damage, a feeling of utter helplessness and ‘what ifs’ within the people that wish they had reached out and talked when they had the chance. Do it. Do it now. They may have thought you weren’t there for them, so be there for them.
It could be the lifeline to a lost soul that thought they were alone in the world. If we all did this one thing every day, maybe those numbers would decrease massively. Let’s start. Now.