Three days ago, it was World Mental Health Day 2019, and this year the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has chosen “Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention” as the theme for the day?
Why “Suicide Prevention”?
Every year, around 800 000 people die by suicide globally. In fact, the number of suicides has risen in 2018. Particularly, in the UK in 2018, there were 6,507 deaths by suicide (a rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 people).
Rates vary across the nations of Great Britain, with the highest rate in 2018 observed in Scotland (16.1 deaths per 100,000 people), followed by Wales (12.8 deaths per 100,000 people) and England (10.3 deaths per 100,000 people). Overall, men accounted for three-quarters of UK deaths by suicide in 2018.
What might trigger a suicide attempt?
Suicide behaviours are complex and there is no universal explanation of why people attempt suicides. Social, psychological, and cultural factors can all interact to lead a person to suicidal thoughts or behaviour. For many people, an attempt may occur after a long period of suicidal thoughts or feelings, while in other cases, it may be more impulsive.
Several risk factors commonly act together to increase vulnerability to suicidal behaviour. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified these into the different groups below:
- difficulties accessing or receiving care
- access to means of suicide
- inappropriate media reporting
- stigma associated with mental health, substance abuse or suicidal behaviour which prevents people from seeking help
- experiences of trauma or abuse
- experiences of disaster, war, or conflict
- experiences of discrimination
- isolation and lack of social support
- relationship breakdown
- loss or conflict
- previous suicide attempts
- self-harm behaviours
- mental ill-health
- drug and alcohol misuse
- financial loss
- chronic pain
- family history of suicide
What can you do to prevent suicide?
The acronym “WAIT” was developed by the Mental Health Foundation and is one good way to remember how you can support another person who may be suicidal. It stands for:
- Watch out for signs of distress and uncharacteristic behaviour
e.g. social withdrawal, excessive quietness, irritability, uncharacteristic outburst, talking about death or suicide
- Ask “are you having suicidal thoughts?”
Asking about suicide does not encourage it, nor does it lead a person to start thinking about it; in fact it may help prevent it, and can start a potentially life-saving conversation
- It will pass – give hope and assure your loved one that, with help, their suicidal feelings will pass with time
- Talk to others – encourage your loved one to seek help from a GP or health professional
British Psychological Society. (2017). Position statement. Understanding and preventing suicide: A psychological perspective. Retrieved from: https://www.bps.org.uk/sites/beta.bps.org.uk/files/Policy-Files/Understa… and preventing suicide – a psychological perspective.pdf ￼
Mental Health Foundation. (2019). World Mental Health Day: suicide prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/world-mental-health-day-suicide-prevention
ONS. (2019). Suicides in the UK: 2018 registrations. Retrieved from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarri…
World Health Organization. (2014). Preventing suicide: A global imperative. Geneva, Switzerland. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/world_report_2014/e…