In partnership with Guernsey Mind
TW: This article discusses suicidal feelings
The loss of a person to suicide can be devastating, with the impact of their death affecting up to 135 people including close family members, loved ones, friends & colleagues. And whilst the topic is generally something we want to keep at a safe distance and not one we want to dwell on, there are some things that we should all know about suicide.
Starting with the fact that most people considering suicide do not actually want to end their lives - they simply want the pain to stop. Meaning that if we can talk more openly about it, we can start to build a framework of emotional and practical support for someone in need. Through raised awareness, good communication and effective support, lives can be saved.
With the help of Guernsey Mind, here is some information to help you understand a little more about this difficult subject, as well some practical advice on how to reach out to someone in need.
It’s important to understand that suicidal feelings can affect anyone, of any age, gender or background, and at any time. In fact, 1 in 5 of us will have suicidal thoughts in our lives. And suicidal thoughts are complex. There is no single cause and no one-size-fits-all approach to helping someone who is feeling suicidal. However, recognising life events that may make someone more vulnerable to suicide can be a step towards understanding why someone might experience suicidal thoughts.
If someone is struggling to cope with bereavement, abuse or bullying they may be more at risk of feeling suicidal. They may also be more vulnerable if they are adjusting to big changes such as the end of a relationship, retirement or redundancy. Financial problems and loneliness or isolation are also significant factors. People with mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, can also be at risk. You can read more on Mind.org.uk.
If you know someone who is struggling to cope with significant life events, simply making the time and space to talk with them about their feelings can help. It’s important to know that your actions, no matter how big or small, can provide hope to someone who is feeling hopeless. Creating Hope Through Action is a campaign for suicide prevention that reminds us all, as partners, parents, friends, neighbours and colleagues, that we can support someone who is experiencing a suicidal crisis. Suicidal thoughts can change and pass, and they don't have to be acted upon.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention reminds us that you do not need to have all of the answers. You don’t need to tell someone what to do or provide solutions. Simply being there for them and listening can help. We can all make a difference to someone in their darkest moments. Sometimes, even a brief conversation with someone that shows that you care can spark something that is enough to make the difference between life and death for them.
Stigma can be a barrier when someone is feeling suicidal. It can be difficult for someone to talk about their mental health and reach out for support. You can make it easier for them by being respectful and open to talking about suicidal feelings. Don't skirt around the topic. It's a myth that talking about suicidal feelings can put ideas into a person's head, or that people who talk about suicide will not act on it. How you deal with any information should be entirely dependent on the individual and it’s vital that you focus on the person, not the problem. Avoid trying to guess how they are feeling and how their feelings might affect their ability to live their lives – everybody’s experiences are different.
Ask honest and open questions about their experience, what the implications are, and most importantly, what support they might need. Ask them if they would like anyone else to know and respect their privacy - unless you feel the situation has already reached a critical point. If you think someone needs urgent help and they may harm themselves, seek professional help immediately and never agree to keep a suicide plan a secret.
It can be difficult to know how to deal with a situation like this. And to know if you are doing it right. Don’t be afraid to reach out for advice on how to deal with the situation. Or signpost the person to get help. If someone you know is worried about their mental health, encourage them to:
If you feel that someone is at immediate risk of harming themselves or someone else, contact the emergency services on 999.
Guernsey Mind can help you to spot the early signs that someone may be struggling and build confidence to apply a ‘first aid approach’ to avoid a crisis and help someone with thoughts of suicide stay safe and stay alive. Get in touch with the team to find out more.
You might also want to take a look at Where to Find Mental Health Support in Guernsey.