Suicide is like a tsunami whose dreaded wave overwhelms all. Every life lost represents someone’s partner, child, parent, friend or colleague. For each suicide, figures show approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected. That’s almost 80,000 people per year in Ireland impacted by this loss. A Croke Park full of grief.
Suicidal behaviour includes suicide, and also encompasses suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. For every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide. Suicide is the result of a convergence of genetic, psychological, social and cultural and other risk factors, sometimes combined with experiences of trauma and loss.
Preventing suicide is often possible and you are a key player in its prevention! You can make a difference — as a member of society, as a child, as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbour. There are many things that you can do daily to prevent suicidal behaviour. You can raise awareness about the issue, educate yourself and others about the causes of suicide and warning signs for suicide, show compassion and care for those who are in distress in your community, advocate for timely services for those with mental health issues, question the stigma associated with suicide, suicidal behaviour and mental health problems and share your own experiences.
Togetherness and Work
It takes work to prevent suicide. The positive benefits of this work are infinite and sustainable and can have a massive impact. The work can affect not only those in distress but also their loved ones, those working in the area and also society as a whole.
Joining together is critical to preventing suicide. Preventing suicide requires the efforts of many. It takes family, friends, co-workers, community members, educators, religious leaders, healthcare professionals, political officials and governments.
A good place to start is your HSE local suicide support office where they provide excellent free resources, including two evidenced based trainings: ‘SafeTalk’ and ‘Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training or ASSIST. Details at www.hse.ie.
Everyone can make a contribution in preventing suicide. Suicidal behaviour is universal, it knows no boundaries so it affects everyone. The tens of thousands of people affected each year by suicidal behaviour have exclusive insight and unique voices. Their experiences are invaluable for informing suicide prevention measures and influencing the provision of supports for suicidal people and those around them. The involvement of people with lived experience of suicide is critical and we need to provide ways to support these valuable voices.
Suicide Myths & Facts
People who talk about suicide don’t die by suicide.
People with suicidal thoughts are absolutely intent on dying.
Suicide happens without warning.
Once a person thinks of suicide they will have those thoughts forever.
An improvement after a crisis means the suicide risk is over.
You are either the suicidal type or you’re not.
Most people who die by suicide have given definite warning signs of their intention. Some of these signs are direct, others are more subtle.
Most people who think of suicide have mixed feelings about living and dying. Many don’t really want to die but they don’t want to live the way they are living and may not be able to see an alternative other than suicide.
People thinking of suicide may talk or act in ways that indicate they are thinking of taking their own life.
Suicidal thoughts may return, but they are not permanent. In some people, they may never return if they get the support they need.
Some suicides happen when things seem to be getting better, because the person now has the energy and will to turn despairing thoughts into self-destructive action.
Suicide happens in all groups in society.
Anyone can turn to suicide as a way of coping with obvious or perceived stress.
What to say to someone who is thinking about suicide
1. Let the person know you are concerned about them.
2. Ask about suicide.
3. Listen and understand.
4. Take all threats seriously.
Talking to a friend or family member about their thoughts and feelings on suicide can be extremely difficult. It is hard to hear that a family member or friend is thinking of ending their life. But it is important to check if your loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts and if they have a plan as to how they will end their life.
If you’re unsure, the best way to find out is to ask if they are thinking about suicide. Allowing someone to express their feelings in a safe space can give them a sense of relief and may help them to see that they have other options. It is important that you accept that your loved one needs help to stay alive and that you support them in finding the help they need straight away.
Steps that will save a life
Remove potential means of suicide; such as medications, firearms, and so on.
Don’t leave them alone. It is important to keep them safe. This will mean staying with them or organising for someone else to stay with them until they get help.
Don’t promise confidentiality. Be honest and say that you cannot agree to keep this confidential because the most important thing is for them to stay safe while they get help to deal with the issues that are leading to their thoughts of suicide.
It may be helpful to agree together who you can tell.
Get professional help; Where possible, support them to tell someone else such as their family doctor (GP), or A+E in out of hours times.
Do everything you can to get the help they need. Your loved one is going to need help and support from others, not just you.
Think about who else can help such as other family members, friends, work colleagues or professional help.
We are all connected like links of a chain— you are the most important link in suicide prevention because you know the person best.
Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychological and counselling service in Portarlington, Co Laois. If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or go to www.facebook.com/ dr.eddie.murphy.psychologist