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Working Together to Prevent Suicide

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10th September marks the annual World Suicide Prevention Day. It was established by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) in order to recognise and address the issue of suicide around the globe. In collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the theme this year is again ‘Working together to prevent suicide.’

According to the WHO, suicide is responsible for over 800,000 deaths around the world each year. That’s one suicide every 40 seconds. Meanwhile it’s estimated that for every adult who has committed suicide, there are 20 others who have attempted to take their own life. Each tragedy represents the loss of a loved one, and all of their loved ones who are so deeply affected. We should be focusing on suicide prevention awareness at every opportunity. But we’re not.

An overriding problem for most healthcare systems, worldwide, is the scarce or non-existent resources (including knowledge resources) dedicated to suicide prevention. But in recent years numerous countries have made commitments to improved research and suicide prevention strategies, and this continues to grow.

Studies by Live Life show that men are twice as likely to die by suicide than women; in some areas they are four times more likely. The exception to this is in the 15-29 age group, where the suicide statistics for girls are almost the same as for boys. Alarmingly, suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst people in this age group, as they encounter an increasing number of the life pressures affecting today’s youth. Looking at it globally, region by region, findings show that 80% of all suicides occur in lower to middle-income countries. But nowhere is unaffected. In life we all face daunting issues, some to a greater degree than others. But regardless of age, gender or where we are in the world, suicide has a devastating impact on communities.

So what can we do to help? A good first step is to start a conversation.

We all have our own low moments, but it’s not always obvious when someone else is in need of your help. The National Suicide Prevention Alliance suggests that if you do notice that someone is acting differently, you should actually ask them twice whether they’re doing OK. As humans, we are conditioned to sand off our rough edges and say that we are fine when we’re not. This can all too often give a false impression to the people who are there to help. In the event that someone is not OK, and the person helping them is not a trained professional, the responsibility is usually not to actually fix the issue, but to talk and listen, and perhaps guide them to professional help if needed. Remember that empathy and understanding go a long way.

Suicide – and suicide risk – is commonly under-reported and under-prioritised, and it’s a constant battle that thousands of us are affected by on a daily basis. What we as individuals can take from the purpose of today (and beyond) is to try to assume a supportive role as a family member, friend, colleague, or even as a stranger: to reach out and ensure that someone isn’t isolated with their own suicidal thoughts. Breaking free from stigma, it is important to recognise that any suffering person deserves our compassion and support. We all have a part to play.

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