MENTAL HEALTH ∙ 4 minutes read

World Suicide Prevention Day: risks, facts and where to get support

By Dr Parisah Hussain

What is World Suicide Prevention Day?

Suicide is an act that involves an individual intentionally taking their own life. 

According to WHO (World Health Organisation), approximately 800,000 individuals die from suicide. This is equivalent to one death happening every 40 seconds. Not only does a suicidal attempt affect the individual themselves, but it also affects the individual’s friends, families, colleagues and society as a whole. 

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is a day of awareness that happens every year on 10th September. It’s an international campaign seeking to live in a world where fewer individuals die by suicide. This campaign is important because suicide is not inevitable. Suicide is preventable. 

What are the risk factors of suicide?

The main risk factors of suicide include the following:

  • Previous suicide attempt 
  • Social isolation
  • Misuse of alcohol and recreational drugs 
  • Mental health disease (depression, anxiety, paranoid schizophrenia)
  • Gender (men)
  • End of a relationship or marriage 
  • Death of a loved one 
  • Unemployment
  • Financial problems 
  • Social media 

Why is suicide more common in men compared to women? 

Suicidal rates are significantly higher in men than in women. Although women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, men are 3-4 times as likely to die from suicide compared to women. It’s the number one killer of men under the age of 45. 

One of the biggest reasons for this gender gap is communication. It’s well known in society that women are far more open and express their thoughts and feelings towards other people. Women are expected to be more emotional in general. On the other hand, from a young age, many men are conditioned to be strong and not show much emotion. Expressing emotion might be perceived as a weakness and an indication that they’re struggling.

It’s well known that men are less likely to make an appointment with their GP, go to the hospital, or tell a doctor that they’re struggling with mental health. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) stated that within primary care, the consultation rate for depression is approximately 8% lower in men than in women. 

The fact that some men don’t want to seek help from others creates a dangerous path. It may result in men wanting to “self-medicate” and resort to using recreational drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. 

This mentality and stigma needs to change. We need to make it okay for men to talk about how they’re feeling. When they express their concerns, it should be acknowledged as a sign of strength, not as a sign of weakness. 

Performing a risk assessment

Sometimes, an individual who has suicidal thoughts may not recognise at all that they need professional support or feel that it’s okay to ask for help. If you’re in contact with someone who has suicidal ideation, or you’re worried about their mental health state, it’s important to ask them the following questions:

  1. Do you currently feel safe?
  2. How is your mood? 
  3. Do you have any thoughts about harming yourself?
  4. Do you have any thoughts about harming others?
  5. Do you have any thoughts about being harmed by others? 
  6. Are you able to see a future for yourself? 
  7. Do you have any thoughts about ending your life?
  8. Have you ever made plans to end your life? 
  9. Have you previously harmed yourself or tried to commit suicide? 

If you do recognise someone else struggling, please inform your local GP or call a helpline. 

Ways to help yourself cope in a crisis

If you’re currently having suicidal thoughts, feel overwhelmed or out of control, there are some practical methods that can be used to help you cope. 

  1. Write down and describe your thoughts - this will help clear your mind and give you an opportunity to reflect on what you’re experiencing
  2. Listen to music 
  3. Focus on your breathing 
  4. Try active relaxation techniques

The bottom line

What can we do on World Suicide Prevention Day? 

It’s essential to raise awareness to everyone, especially men, about who they can ask for help, where they can ask for help, and when they can ask for help.  

There are several websites and charities that have online chats, helpline numbers and helpline text messaging services available for individuals who have suicidal ideation. Technology is always presenting new ideas. 

Here is a list of some fantastic support services available: 

1. Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)

CALM offers a free and confidential helpline and webchat. It’s suitable for anyone who needs to discuss their life issues and provide support to those who are bereaved by suicide. 

Website: https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/webchat/ 

Call: 0800 58 58 58. 

The opening hours are between 5pm to midnight every day. 

2. NHS Mental Health Helpline

If you do not have access to any of the mental health organisations, you can also go onto the NHS website and find the mental health helpline. 

Website: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/mental-health/find-an-urgent-mental-health-helpline 

3. Call 999 or 111

If you need urgent assistance regarding suicidal thoughts and suicidal intentions, please dial 999 or 111 to access NHS service straight away. 

4. PAPYRUS 

This is a national charity and it’s for people under the age of 35. Suicide is the leading cause of young deaths in the UK. Deaths from suicide can be prevented if help is sought out as early as possible. No young person should have to suffer alone with thoughts or feelings of hopelessness and nobody should have to go through the heartbreak of losing a young person to suicide. 

Call: 0800 068 41 4. The opening hours are between 9am to midnight every day.

Text: 07860 039967

Email: [email protected]

5. Silence of Suicide (SOS)

This service is available for anyone who is affected by poor mental health and/or touched by suicide. SOS are here for anyone who needs to talk and for someone to listen to them. You should not feel ashamed, stigmatised or silenced. 

Call: 0300 1020 505 

The opening hours are between 8pm to midnight on weekdays and between 4pm to midnight on Saturday and Sunday. 

Email: [email protected] 

6. Mind

Mind is a charitable organisation that provides support and advice to anyone who has an issue with their mental health. There are 125 local minds across England and Wales.

Website: https://www.mind.org.uk/ 

7. Samaritans

Samaritans campaign under the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA).

Call: 116 123 for free every day 24/7

Email: [email protected] 

Website: https://www.samaritans.org/ 

8. Shout Crisis Text Line 

If you’re not comfortable speaking on the phone or speaking online on a website, an alternative method to get help is to text organisations instead. This is a free, confidential, 24/7 text-messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. Since COVID-19, this service has become increasingly more critical. 

Text: "SHOUT" to 85258

Please do not be afraid to ask for help. Remove the fear - we are all here for you. 

Dr Parisah Hussain

MBChB, BSc (Hons)

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