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Last week marked world suicide awareness day, and the theme was reaching out and saving lives. World Suicide Prevention Day has been marked every 10th September since 2003 as a way of alerting everyone to ways in which they can prevent suicide. According to the recently released World Health Organization report: Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative, over 800,000 people die as a result of suicide in the world each year. In England and Wales suicide is the biggest cause of death amongst men aged 20-34.
‘Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives’ is the theme of the 2015 World Suicide Prevention Day.
So what does reaching out mean?
Different ways of reaching out
Reaching out to someone by what you say or how you say it, can be hugely significant. Being aware or alert to some of the indicators of risk of suicide can be a crucial way of ensuring that you reach out when needed.
The theme of reaching out isn’t just about people at risk of suicide. It includes those who may be bereaved by suicide – Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide is a national organisation with many local support groups that offer support to people trying to come to terms with how their loved one have died. You can find more information about the organisation at http://uk-sobs.org.uk/
Different types of thinking
I think reaching out can also be about understanding suicide itself. Many people end their own lives not because they are suffering from mental health problems, but for many other reasons. Think of the recent debate about people campaigning for the right to be assisted in ending their own lives. On the other hand, people who do have mental health problems are at greater risk of developing suicidal ideas. We need to be aware of the research on this. Some mental health conditions are associated with a greater risk of suicide, but it’s not just about being aware of different mental disorders. O’Connor and Sheehy (The Psychologist Volume 14 No. 1) explore the research evidence around different types of thinking that contribute to suicidal ideas. For example, not being able to think positively about the future, blaming oneself for things going wrong, and difficulty in solving everyday problems are all potential risk factors.
Knowing where to get help is another way of reaching out. The QCS Suicide Prevention Policy and Procedure describes issues regarding communication, identifying risk indicators and when it is appropriate to seek specialist help.