Understanding Suicide: We need to talk about it…
Despite 5,583 suicides registered in England and Wales in 2021, and evidence that 1 in 5 of us will have suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives, people still think of suicide as a taboo subject.
*Office of National Statistics 2021
Although the number of people who die by suicide is statistically small in relation to the number of people who live in the UK, the ripple effect of every suicide is enormous.
But we just don’t talk about it, do we?
I’m not saying that suicide is an easy topic to discuss; far from it. It touches people’s souls and releases strong emotions.
But in a training room of people, it’s rare not to have at least a couple of people who have been closely affected by it. You may have your own story or been affected by someone close to you?
And I’ve found that – given the opportunity – people in fact take comfort from sharing their stories and having them witnessed and validated by others.
So, why do we think that people don’t want to talk about suicide?
Perhaps we shy away from talking about it for fear of upsetting others?
Or we’re afraid what people will think?
Possibly it’s because we’re fearful of starting a conversation that we feel ill-equipped to handle?
What if someone discloses something uncomfortable?
And what if talking about suicide makes matters worse or gives someone the idea to take their life?
In reality talking about suicide does none of these things.
Start a conversation
We’re much more likely to prevent a suicide by opening up a conversation and showing human kindness.
If we’re brave enough to approach the subject, people are often brave enough to share their distress. In fact, it’s what they’re hoping someone will do.
Talking openly about suicide gives people ‘permission’ to share their deepest distress with us. Asking about suicide shows someone you care about them and want to help.
As a mental health strategist and educator of suicide awareness – the evidence points to people wanting to talk about it.
As a volunteer for Shout – the 24/7 crisis text service – the majority of the conversations I have are with people who are contemplating suicide and feel unable to talk to others about how they feel.
In training sessions, once people start to share and explore this topic it’s as if the floodgates open.
And of all the posts I upload on LinkedIn, the ones related to suicide receive far more interaction and comments than any other topic.
The problem is how to talk about suicide.
Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they’re thinking about suicide
If they say yes, the most important thing you can do is listen to them and explore what’s happening in their life.
You don’t have to have the answers. Most people don’t want you to ‘fix’ them. They simply need to feel heard and to have their emotions validated.
And if you feel you’d like to build your confidence further to support others then a good place to start is with a Suicide First Aid Course.
People are curious about how someone can end up in a situation from which they feel there’s no other escape. We all want to know how to spot the signs to keep ourselves, our friends, and our families safe.
So, let’s talk more about suicide… who knows, it could save a life.