**Trigger warning: contains references to suicide**
For World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 we are sharing some very brave stories from our Champions who emphasise the importance of speaking out about your mental health in order to remove the stigma around seeking help if you have suicidal thoughts.
I feel there needs to be just as much of a focus on people who can support someone to have that conversation. This is particularly the case with trying to prevent someone from taking their own life when they’re at their lowest possible point.
I made two attempts in late 2018. I didn’t want to talk to anybody beforehand, which might sound strange given that I’m such a vocal person in relation to mental health. I have people in my life who contact me regularly, and check-in to see how I’m doing, but I’m not sure that they could have seen it coming.
There are signs that someone might be thinking of ending their life, such as becoming withdrawn, being in a prolonged period of deep depression, and giving away sentimental possessions, but we’re not all easy to read. Some of us can make it seem that all is ok without people knowing what’s happening underneath. Some people become ‘at peace’ with their problems before thinking of taking their life. How can we pick up on that?
This is as complex as suicide itself. There is no one-size-fits all solution or set of guidelines. All we can do is our best in trying to help someone or helping them to help themselves. If you do that, prepare to look after yourself as well. Knowing that someone is in that much pain can be difficult to process.
Conversations about suicide are essentially conversations about pain. What is it that’s troubling someone so much that they are thinking of endling their life? If you are supporting someone that you know, you might have a good idea of the things that are causing trauma and suffering. That could be the thing to focus on and work towards a solution.
As ever, with Time to Change Wales, it’s about trying to normalise conversations around mental health. The conversations around suicide are becoming more common, which is encouraging. There are more organisations and key individuals involved in this area, more research being done, more campaigns, more helplines, and websites for advice.
My experience taught me that suicide is not inevitable. It is preventable. There are plenty of ways in which you can be supported to end the pain without you leaving us.
I’ll end with an excerpt of a 2018 BBC documentary ‘Stopping Male Suicide’, where Dr Xand van Tulleken explored the reasons why suicide is the main cause of death in men aged under 50. His closing comment was ‘Something we can all do, is turn to the person next to you or phone a mate and ask them, not just ‘are you doing ok?’, but ‘are you thinking of killing yourself?’. This might sound a bit unorthodox or inappropriate, but when you think about it a bit more, it could well save a life.
If you’d like to read about the work that I’m doing on suicide awareness and prevention, go to sixtysixninetynine.org