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20th September 2013

Getting help to prevent suicide

Nearly one million people worldwide die each year as a result of suicide. This is one of the shocking facts publicised as part of World Suicide Prevention Day which has held earlier this month. Here’s another, suicide is the commonest cause of death amongst men aged under 35. The theme of this year’s Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th was mental illness and stigma. Of course there are many people who commit suicide but don’t have a mental illness, but what is it about mental illness that might drive people to end their lives?

  • Hearing voices that distress them, or even tell them to kill themselves
  • Deep and profound depression that leaves people with no hope for a future
  • Insight into the distress that the person’s mental health problems has had on themselves and their families around them

There is a lot of stigma around both suicide and mental illness. Many people will question why someone has killed themselves, and brand it as a selfish act that leaves others around them in distress, and if a suicide attempt fails then it is often regarded as an unnecessary cry for attention. The effect of this stigma is to stop people seeking appropriate help, and stop them talking to people who might be able to help them.

It is not just in the general public that negative attitudes exist about people who attempt suicide. A shocking coroner’s report from a death in Southampton earlier in the year shows that these attitudes can even pervade mental health services. In July of this year Hannah Groves was found hanged after being turned away from the Antelope House mental health unit in Southampton. A worker there told police that Hannah was a ‘time waster.’ Hannah was only 20 when she died. Antelope House also featured in a shocking Panorama programme filmed at Southampton police station last week about how police are spending more and more time dealing with mental health crises, including acutely suicidal young people. I want to write about this in a future blog.

If you are working with someone with suicidal ideas, there’s a set of useful resources produced by Connecting with People who are working with lots of organisations to try help to people to overcome suicidal thoughts and feelings. You can find these at http://www.connectingwithpeople.org/.  Sometimes workers have a fear that if we ask people if they’ve thought of killing themselves, then we’re encouraging them to do just that. The truth is that bottling up feelings and suffering in silence is the real killer.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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