Thursday, 8 September 2022
World Suicide Prevention Day
Every year since 2003 September 10th has been designated World Suicide Prevention Day. It was established by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and directed towards governments, policy makers, national organisations and the general public with the very specific message that suicide can be prevented. Since its creation, awareness of the day has grown enormously, and now it is observed in over 60 countries with hundreds of events being held to mark it and support the message.
The theme for 2022 is 'Creating Hope Through Action'. Hope is a loaded word in the context of mental illness and suicide, because messages of hope and positivity when someone is unwell can backfire if they are not able to hold hope for themselves, and can add to someone's feelings of worthlessness. But IASP is an organisation whose work I really respect and I was intrigued to dig deeper to find out what this message means in practical terms.
What I discovered filled me with optimism. There are numerous practical actions, big and small, that we can take in our personal lives, in our professional organisations, in our online lives, and in our community lives that will have an impact on suicide prevention. You can read some of these suggestions in the IASP Outreach Briefs. I've also been listening to podcasts covering some of the latest research in this field. If you are on twitter, you might have seen some of the threads that I've been writing summarising some of the best podcast episodes that I've come across. I'll list them at the end of this post. There are some truly inspiring people working in this field and much of the expertise is coming from people with lived-experience. One of the most fundamental messages to come out of everything that I've read and listened to is: TALK!
- for someone who is struggling, reaching out and telling someone how they feel can be a life-saver
- don't be afraid to ask if you think someone is suicidal (rather than plant the seed of the idea, all the research shows this is protective)*
- educating children from a young age to talk about feelings and emotions has been proven to protective for their future mental health
*The Samaritans have loads of helpful information on how to support someone who might be feeling suicidal including their listening tips SHUSH.
Suicide is not easy to talk about in any context and we certainly should not be limiting our discussions about it to one day a year. World Suicide Prevention Day is one day to shine a light on the topic but it is something that we should be thinking about 365 days of the year.
Mental Health Foundation: Let's Talk About Suicide Prevention
MQ Open Mind: Episode 8, How can we work together to prevent suicide
Royal College of Psychiatrists: Dr Alex discusses male suicide, social isolation, and educating young people about mental health
Reach In, Reach Out: Lived experience and suicide prevention
Mentally Yours: World Suicide Prevention Day