As suicide rates in the UK have increased since 2013, the 2018 figure shows that 6,507 people die from suicide, a significant increase over 2017 (National Statistics Bureau) and a feeling that this is likely only due to the effects of Covid-19 coronavirus It is becoming increasingly important that we put suicide in the spotlight and how we can prevent it.
There are a number of interventions that support suicide prevention, some directly and others less. Mind Matters offers some of these in the form of evidence-based training courses that empower people to be life-support staff through safeTALK Suicide Alert helpers or through Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). The tools are out there, accessible to many people, and available on a global scale. However, there are obstacles, obstacles that prevent people from accessing them.
In both my personal and professional experience, one of the most important obstacles I encounter is the attitude that suicide is unavoidable. It sits deep in people’s psyche and often (consciously or unconsciously) contributes to their views and attitudes towards suicide. However, the evidence base tells us otherwise. There is a wealth of conflicting evidence and support materials provided by organizations such as the WHO (World Health Organization), as quoted in their “Suicide” fact sheet (2019), and also in practice through the work of Joy Hibbins and her team at the Suicide Crisis Center in Gloucester. Joy’s incredible work is shared in her book, Suicide Prevention Techniques: How a Suicide Crisis Service Saves Lives (2018).
The attitude that suicide is unavoidable is determined by various historical and current issues and may relate to your own frame of reference and experience regarding suicide. If you’ve suffered the painful loss of someone you love and who cares about suicide, assuming that suicide is preventable can make you feel like you didn’t prevent it yourself, and the full range negative emotions that could result from related negative thoughts. But this thinking also has a mistake. This thinking comes from a place where you are the only person who could and should have saved you, and sole responsibility has been transferred to you. Indeed, as a society, we have a collective responsibility to prevent suicide, as well as a collective responsibility to prevent the spread of Covid-19. We all have a role to play, so it can never be a person’s fault and a person should not and cannot bear this unbearable weight of guilt and responsibility. LivingWorks, who have developed and licensed the suicide prevention courses we offer, have worked tirelessly (and continue to work) to develop a so-called “suicide-safe community”, a community that works to prevent suicide, and that of Belief is driven that suicide is avoidable. To increase the number of people who are equipped to prevent suicide, we need to change the basic societal belief that suicide is unavoidable. Why should someone choose an intervention like suicide training if they don’t think this is avoidable? If we thought we couldn’t protect children or vulnerable adults, we wouldn’t have access to safety training. If we thought we could never learn to drive, we would not take driving lessons, if we believed we could never learn to read and write, we would never take up education. To reduce the number of people who die from suicide worldwide, we must believe that this is avoidable, which will then create a positive foundation for access to current interventions. Better still, it also means that we are likely to have the impetus to develop and invest in new and innovative suicide prevention measures, and most importantly, we are changing hopelessness into hope. Maintaining it is not an easy belief, it is challenged by many, including ourselves, and so we have to be steadfast and persistent in that belief. As a person who also strives to achieve the goal of a “suicide-safe community” where fewer people die from suicide and fewer people are affected by the loss of a person through suicide, I ask readers to adopt a new mindset work, an attitude that suicide is preventable so that we can prevent future suicides.
Stay safe, everyone.