More than 700,000 people die world wide from suicide every year. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. And according to the WHO, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally in 2019.
Spotting the signs:
Suicidal feelings can be confusing, frightening and complicated. They can range from having general thoughts about not wanting to be here to making a plan about how and when you could end your life. You might feel less like you want to die, and more that you want the pain to stop. You might feel, hopeless or trapped, tearful, anxious or overwhelmed by negative thoughts, desperate, tempted to do risky or reckless things because you don’t care what happens to you, like you want to avoid other people.
Suicide is complex and there is no single explanation of why people die by suicide. There are many different risk factors, including, previous suicide attempts, or previous self harm. Many people who self-harm don’t want to die. However, research shows that people who self harm are at higher risk of attempting or dying by suicide, being unemployed, having a physical health problem, including chronic pain, living alone, being dependent on alcohol or drugs, having mental health problems.
There may not be an obvious reason why someone feels suicidal. But whatever the cause, there is help available.
How can I help someone if I’m worried they’re suicidal?
Simple actions can help support someone who is suicidal or recovering from an attempt to take their life.
- Ask- Just asking someone if they’re suicidal can help. Asking directly about suicide gives someone permission to open up and lets them know they’re not a burden. If someone feels suicidal, it can be a huge relief to talk about how they feel.
- If a friend does share their suicidal feelings with you, it’s usually best to listen and respond with open questions, rather than advice or opinions. You don’t have to solve their problems: just offer support and encourage them to talk, if you can.
- Seek Help – It can feel difficult to start these conversations. Samaritans and Mind have articles that help open the conversation with people who you feel are suicidal. Your friend may also need help with practical things, such as calling their GP, contacting family and friends, or simply watching TV with them or doing an activity together. You could also help them make a safety plan when they feel able to. In a crisis, this can help them remember ways to cope and people to contact. You can download a safety plan here.
There are limits to the support you can provide as a friend and you need to take care of yourself. Give yourself time to rest and process what they’ve told you or what’s happened. It’s ok to decide you can’t help someone or need to step back for a while. Try to help them create a support network of other friends, relatives and mental health professionals who can help them too.
Suicide Helplines available:
If you are feeling suicidal please can your GP or the NHS out of hours on 111.
There are many free helplines available:
- Samaritans offers a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week support service. Call them free on 116 123. You can also email email@example.com.
- CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) has a helpline (5pm – midnight) and webchat for anyone who’s having a tough time and needs to talk.
- Papyrus supports people under 35 who have thoughts of suicide and others who are concerned about them. You can call their HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They’re open every day from 9am to midnight.