Awareness and signposting for suicide prevention

suicide prevention
Mental Health

Awareness and signposting for suicide prevention

Suicide is a complex and deeply stigmatised issue that affects millions of lives globally. There were over 5,000 suicides in the UK last year and the issue of depression and suicide often gets avoided in conversations about mental health, due to the emotions it can bring up.

That said, we feel it’s important to break the silence on suicide and promote awareness of support and signposting. We recently held a webinar to shed some light on the ways we can support individuals facing suicidal thoughts or coping with a bereavement from suicide. In this piece, we’ve outlined five essential learning points from the talk for you.

1. Complexity of suicide

The webinar highlighted the complexity of suicide as a multifaceted issue that defies simplistic solutions. It’s essential to understand that each situation is unique, and systemic changes are often needed to prevent suicides effectively. While we may be tempted to oversimplify the issue, suicide requires a holistic approach that encompasses awareness, support, and policy changes. By acknowledging the intricacies of this problem, we can better address the underlying causes and provide more effective solutions to those that are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

2. The power of language

Language plays a crucial role in discussing suicide and mental health. One key takeaway from the webinar was the need to avoid using the phrase “committed suicide.” Historically, this phrase was associated with criminality, which can perpetuate stigma and shame. Instead, consider using alternative phrases such as “died by suicide,” “took their own life,” or “died from ill mental health.” Using compassionate and accurate language can help reduce stigma and encourage open conversations about this sensitive topic.

3. Recognising signs of suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation is often challenging to identify because it manifests in various ways. The webinar stressed the importance of recognising signs, even if they don’t fit a specific stereotype of sadness. Some potential signs include:

  • Isolation and detachment: Individuals may withdraw from their social networks, becoming increasingly isolated.
  • Changes in behaviour: Look out for any significant shifts in behaviour, such as increased risk-taking or substance abuse.
  • Verbal clues: Pay attention to statements like “What’s the point anymore?” or “I don’t want to wake up.” These can indicate a desire to end one’s life.
  • Giving away valued belongings: Some individuals may start giving away their belongings as a way of preparing for suicide.

Understanding these signs and taking them seriously can be lifesaving. However, it’s important to remember that individuals may not always display all these signs, and some may mask their struggles when around their friends, family or colleagues, making it difficult to know whether to offer support.

4. Boundaries and self-checking

Before offering support to someone who may be struggling, it’s essential that you conduct a self-check. Just as you would check your car has enough fuel before a long journey, you need to ensure you’re in a mental state to provide help effectively. Remember that your mental health matters too, and you must maintain healthy boundaries. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s necessary to be a supportive presence for others. Burnout can occur when you neglect your own wellbeing while trying to help someone else. Therefore, self-care and setting boundaries are vital aspects of providing effective support.

5. Building confidence to approach

Approaching someone who may be experiencing suicidal ideation is undoubtedly challenging. To overcome this challenge, building confidence to engage in these conversations is crucial. This confidence can come from training, increased awareness, and knowing how to respond appropriately.

Several organisations and initiatives offer training in suicide prevention and mental health first aid. These programs equip individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate these difficult conversations. By investing in such training, individuals can feel more prepared and empowered to address mental health issues and suicidal ideation.

Suicide is a complex issue that demands our attention, compassion, and action. By embracing the power of language, recognising signs of suicidal ideation, conducting self-checks, and building confidence to approach these conversations, we can create a more supportive and empathetic environment for people to share their issues.

Suicide prevention is not solely the responsibility of professionals; it’s a collective effort that requires us all to be informed and willing to help. Let us remember that by breaking the silence and offering support, we can make a significant difference in the lives and mental health of those who are struggling.