What Can We Do To Prevent Suicide?


September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day when organisations around the world get together to raise awareness about suicide prevention - but is suicide actually preventable?

It is, of course, a question that will haunt anyone bereaved by suicide: the “what if’s” and “if only’s” that could have changed the course of history. But let’s step back from individual cases for a moment and think about suicide on the macro level as the serious public health problem that it is. You don’t have to be a medical professional to make a dierence.

Here are 3 simple things that we can all do to help prevent suicide.

1. Challenge stigma

Stigma means many people thinking of taking their own life are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the support they need. It is great to see people talking more openly about mental health but we still have a long way to go when it comes to the stigma surrounding suicide. This is where we can all play a role challenging unhelpful attitudes and creating conditions where anyone and everyone in need can reach out for help without feeling judged.

2. Become aware of the early signs of mental illness

Research shows that 80-90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness at time of death. Depression is the top risk factor. Learning to recognise the early warning signs, both in ourselves and others, can help us take early action. Signs of depression include loss of appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, increased irritability, withdrawal from others, loss of pleasure in doing things we usually enjoy and problems in carrying out simple everyday tasks. Recognising early on that these changes may mean we need to seek help is so important. Early intervention is so much easier than trying to deal with the illness once it has escalated.

3. Become a suicide first aider

Two thirds of people who take their own life do not tell a GP or health professional how they are feeling. This makes it very hard to reach out to people and help them before it is too late. If people are not reaching out to the professionals for help then we all need to take responsibility and create a community response to this problem. Suicide first aid training has proved to be eective in preventing suicide by helping people recognise and support those at risk. I have been through the training myself and feel much more prepared to help someone at risk of suicide. Most workplaces and community organisations have a (physical) first aider and it is becoming increasingly common to have a mental health first aider. I look forward to a time when suicide first
aiders in communities are just as commonplace.

So come on and think, what part you can play today in preventing suicide.