Today is 'World Suicide Prevention Day', the day on which millions of companies, associations and people globally raise awareness on the issue and how we in the community can work together to prevent suicide. In honour of WSPD this months blog focuses on suicide and what we can all do to help.
Earlier this month the Office for National Statistics published a report on suicide statistics within the UK. Sadly, this report showed that the number of suicides recorded within the UK in 2018 was the highest in over 15 years with a total of 6,507 people who had taken their own lives. That is 6,507 human lives that were lost due to some form of struggle with mental health. These were real people that went to school or to work, they were loved and loved others, they had feelings and thoughts and to people on the outside they perhaps led a seemingly normal life however they all had one other thing in common. They all felt there was no other way to end there mental suffering besides taking their own life.
Ages 45 - 59 have the highest suicide rate overall in the UK, a statistic predominantly being driven by the male population. In fact, 4,903 out of the 6,507 suicides recorded in 2018 were men which continues to support the long standing fact that men are far more likely to commit suicide than women.
There are many different reasons put forward to try and explain why men in this age range are most likely to take their own life. Triggers such as unemployment, relationship breakdowns, debt and job loss are key but the biggest issue here is that men are far less likely to admit they need help or to attend counselling. Therefore when faced with stressful situations, unhealthy emotions and thoughts and mental illness they don't know how to handle it and see just one way out.
The 45 - 59 age range undoubtedly grew up in a time where expectations of men were different and social and cultural pressures may have played a part in keeping their issues to themselves. However it's now 2019 and if this report shows us anything, it's that now more than ever we all need to be aware of those around us and show kindness because you never know who may need it at that moment.
As a person, the statistics from the report saddens me deeply but as a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist it breaks my heart as I know that many of these lives could have been saved if they had asked for and received help.
Preventing suicide is often possible through a combination of solutions such as talking therapy and sometimes medication but also the smallest gesture of kindness and understanding can have a huge impact on someone's day. It's okay to not be okay and where there is a problem there is a solution, it's just that sometimes we may need someone's help to find it.
Unfortunately with mental health issues on the rise, a lack of funding for charities and the severely long waiting times to see a funded counsellor - not everyone get's the help they need right away. No one wakes up suicidal. Reaching that point is a result of having unhealthy thoughts and feelings that take root and grow overtime if left alone. Through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy clients learn to identify what they are truly thinking and change it before they feel like they have only one choice left.
One of the reasons I feel so passionately about having my own practise is because I have seen clients who have had to wait 4 months for a space and would have been in a much better mental state if they had of received help when they first asked. Sadly, I cannot change that but I can change things for those who contact me at Happy Healthy CBT for support.
Whether you are a therapist or not we can all make a difference - as a member of society, as a child, as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or even as a neighbour. If there is someone in your life who you believe is suffering with some form on mental illness and at risk there are many things that you can do to prevent suicidal behaviour.
You can raise awareness about the issue by educating yourself and others around you about the causes of suicide and warning signs. Another incredibly important way of helping is to show compassion and care for those who are in distress. For some people suffering admitting that they have a serious problem can be one of the hardest things to face and knowing they have a kind and non judgemental person to turn to can be life changing.
It's our role as (currently) healthy and rational people to question the stigma associated with suicide and mental health problems and share our own experiences to make the path a less fearful one for others to walk.
If you are feeling suicidal and in need or urgent support you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 for free, day or night. They also offer lots of advice on how to help a loved one on their website www.samaritans.org