Today is National Suicide Prevention Day so as such this weeks blog is on the topic of Suicide.
The Oxford Dictionary defines suicide as "the action of killing oneself intentionally".
In society, it is rare that people will talk about suicide, particularly in social situations. It is still seen as a taboo subject and can make people feel very uncomfortable - yet the statistics on suicide shows that it is something that needs to be discussed openly within our society as we all have a part to play in prevention.
The Samaritans are the only organisation to collate suicide statistics for the UK, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and ROI and they publish their findings in their annual Suicide Statistics Report. The 2018 report has not been released yet but the Samaritans website lists a summary of the key trends contained in the report. These include:
In 2017 there were 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland. 5,821 of these suicides were registered in the UK and 392 occurred in the Republic of Ireland.
In the UK men remain three times as likely to take their own lives than women, and in the Republic of Ireland four times more likely.
The highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 45-49 and the highest suicide rate in the Republic of Ireland was for men aged 25–34 (with an almost identical rate for men aged 45–54).
Putting it simply - these figures mean there is one death by suicide every two hours - and many more people are thought to attempt suicide. Suicide is also the single biggest killer of men under the age of 50 in the UK. This means that men are more likely to die from suicide than from anything else — including car accidents or cancer.
According to Emile Durkheim’s theory on suicide, he concluded that there are four different types of suicide. In his studies he tried to understand what makes a person actually commit suicide and what influences or factors may have led that person to that final decision or act.
The first type is the Egoistic suicide. According to Durkheim, when a man becomes socially isolated or feels that he has no place in the society he destroys himself. These individuals may not be well supported in a social group, they may feel like they are an outsider or loner and the only people they have in this world are themselves. They often feel very isolated and helpless during times in their lives when they are under stress.
The second type is Altuistic suicide. This type of suicide occurs when individuals and the group are too close and intimate. When a person commits this type of suicide they are greatly involved in a group and all that they care about are that groups norms and goals and they completely neglect their own needs. They take their lives for a cause. A good example of this would be a suicide bomber.
Durkheim’s third type of suicide is Anomic Suicide. This type of suicide is due to breakdown of social equilibrium, such as, suicide after bankruptcy or after winning a lottery. In other words, suicide takes place in a situation which has cropped up suddenly and the individual is experiencing great stress or change.
The final type of suicide is Fatalistic suicide. This type of suicide is committed when an individuals life is kept under tight regulation. They often live their lives under extreme rules and high expectations. These types of people are left feeling like they’ve lost their sense of self.
Whatever the reason why people commit suicide, as a society we all have a part to play in prevention.
Suicide prevention is not optional - it is a share responsibility and everyone has something to offer - we cannot just leave it to professionals.
The first thing we can all do to help prevent suicide is talk about it. No person in a suicidal state or struggling with any mental health issue should have to feel silenced or shamed. The same is true for people who are worried about a friend or family member. They should know that they can reach out and make a difference.
Too often people are afraid to bring up the subject of suicide, fearing that they’ll be wrong or “put the idea in someone’s head.” This is a big misconception. People need to talk about suicide and open the doors of communication to those suffering with suicidal thoughts. These individuals need to know that they are not alone, and that there is an entire community who is there, who can relate, and who will support them in the hardest of times.
We also need to know the warning signs for suicide that we can all look out for when we think someone may be in trouble. Common signs such as isolating oneself or perceiving oneself as a burden can cause a suicidal individual to withdraw, and therefore, we may be less inclined to notice what that person is going through. But by getting to know these warning signs, we can be more aware, ask more questions, and intervene more quickly when someone needs our help.
Warning signs can include:
Disturbed sleep patterns
Anxiety and agitation
Pulling away from friends and family
Extremely self-hating thoughts
Feeling like they don’t belong
Rage and irritability
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Feeling that they are a burden to others
Loss of interest in favourite activities -“nothing matters”
Giving up on themselves
Suicidal thoughts, plans, actions
Sudden mood changes for the better
We also need to learn ways to reach out to those we are concerned about. We need to have the confidence in talking about the issue, have the courage to provide support when required and the knowledge to be able to signpost them to various agencies and organisations that may be able to provide additional support to them. One useful tool for any individual to to complete is suicide prevention training. The QPR Institute (https://qprinstitute.com/) provides one-hour online courses and those trained are said to be better able to “recognise the warning signs of suicide, know how to offer hope and know how to get help and save a life”. This is well worth an hour of your time.
We need to remember “preventing suicide is often possible and you are a key player in its prevention! You can make a difference - as a member of society, as a child, as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbour.” - IASP