World suicide prevention day happened last weekend. It’s a difficult topic for me to write about, because suicide has touched my family along with so many others. Suicide takes one human life from the Earth every 40 seconds, and is often one of the first serious health problems that young people encounter in their lives. It is the second most common cause of death in young adults between the ages of 15 and 29, but it can be preventable. Men take their lives nearly four times as often as women. It is possible to make a difference to someone that is having suicidal thoughts, but knowing what to look for is key. Risk factors for suicide vary between people of different ages, genders and ethnic groups. Over 90% of people who die by suicide are suffering from clinical depression, addiction, or another mental disorder.
People more likely to commit suicide include:
· Those who have already tried to kill themselves in the past
· People with a family history of mental illness, suicide or addiction to drugs/alcohol
· People who have suffered abuse– be it mental, physical or sexual
· People suffering from chronic illness or pain
Sometimes there are just no signs that someone is suicidal. I remember a friend who seemed fine, he had a job, a wife and two young children. One day his wife came home to a letter, a complete set of accounts and a will. He had gone for a cycle in the countryside in Yorkshire and jumped off a bridge. We were all totally shocked and blamed ourselves, how could we have missed that he was so unhappy? Thankfully, in many cases there are signs that someone may be about to do something drastic. These include:
· Often talking or thinking about death/suicide
· Clinical depression (feeling disconnected, lost, deeply sad, having trouble sleeping and eating)
· Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends at work, writing a will, making lists of accounts etc.
· Deliberately taking risks that could be fatal such as speeding, running red lights etc
· Losing interest in things they used to care about
· Comments suggesting they feel hopeless, worthless, or that people would be better off without them
· Sudden change in behaviour from being very sad or stressed, to being very calm or appearing happy
· Catching up with old friends to say goodbye
If a loved one exhibits these signs, please talk to them and listen to what they have to say. Encouraging them to seek help may just save their life. If you are feeling as though death is preferable to your current life, then please talk to a doctor. If you can’t stop the thoughts and think you may be about to do something, call NHS111 or go to A&E and tell the doctors how you are feeling. There is help out there, it can get better and it is never hopeless.