This week marked 2019 World Mental Health Day. This year the emphasis was on suicide prevention, which brings with it some sad statistics.
All the advice out there in coping with suicidal thoughts starts with talking, but most people don’t even know where to begin. They are often afraid that telling someone how they feel will upset others, or cause them to panic. Some people don’t want to ask in case they ‘put the idea in their head’. This is a myth!
Talking about suicide does not cause suicide.
Talking about suicide can save someones life.
Start with someone you trust, a friend or family member, or a professional. Use a clear statement or question, like “I’m feeling suicidal”. Try to avoid vague colloquialisms about “ending it” – ending what? A Netflix subscription? Suicidal thoughts are much more common that we think, mainly because no one talks about it. If you know what support you need, ask for it directly.
If you are supporting someone who has disclosed suicidal thoughts, try to listen; don’t get angry or blame them for how they feel. Tell them that you are thankful they felt able to speak to you, and ask what has brought them to this point. If you are able, offer support in areas they are struggling with. People who are experiencing depression, for example, may not be eating well, doing day-to-day tasks, or may be cut off from others. Offering to check in with them or cook them a meal may make a difference. Do not promise something that you are not able to do; be realistic about what you can offer. You can encourage them to speak to their GP or a therapist if they feel they need more support.
If the thoughts have moved on to making plans, writing notes, or other preparations, then it is time to access more professional support. Ask if they have seen a GP recently. Do they have a psychiatrist, therapist, or mental health nurse that they can call?
Sometimes none of these are an option, in which case they can visit the emergency department, and ask to speak to the mental health team. The team will conduct a full assessment and make recommendations as to what support is might be appropriate. This could include medication, referral to psychological services or community mental health teams, home based treatment, and as a very last resort hospitalisation.
There is support; it starts with talking.
If you require support and need to speak to someone now please contact The Samaritans: phone 116 123 – it’s free and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. https://www.samaritans.org/
If it is an emergency, please visit your local emergency department, dial 111, or 999.