Although the term Blue Monday originated from a travel company’s efforts to sell more holidays in January, it is still a good opportunity to highlight a topic that many of us feel uncomfortable talking about and that is suicide. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 5,691 deaths by suicide in 2019, which is an average of 109 deaths per week that could have been prevented.
We are living through a time of great uncertainty, change and isolation so it is important to acknowledge that people will be at higher risk of dark thoughts, feeling hopelessness and potentially thoughts of self-harm.
In September 2000, Kevin Hines felt so hopeless that he decided to end his life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. He was one of only a handful of people to survive the 240-foot drop, impacting the water below at 75 miles per hour, shattering many of his bones. He said that as he stood on the bridge notorious for suicide, he was crying and desperate for someone to stop and ask him if he was alright or if he needed help, but no one did, so he jumped. However, as his hands left the rail, he instantly regretted his decision and knew that he wanted to live. Luckily Kevin survived and recovered from his many injuries and now dedicates his life to helping others who believe that suicide is the only option.
You can watch Kevin's story here.
The team at Marshall Centre discussed things that we can all do to potentially save someone from taking their life. Although this is not an easy topic to talk about, we must work hard to remove the stigma and create a safe space for people to have those difficult conversations.
See The Samaritans advice about starting difficult conversation.
Check in with people
While we’re going through this period of uncertainty, change and isolation, it’s important to keep in contact with our friends, family and colleagues. Having regular contact with people will allow you to identify changes in behaviour such as:
- Tiredness and loss of energy
- Sadness that doesn’t go away
- Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating
- Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable of interesting
- Feeling anxious all the time
- Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Sleeping problems – difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual
- Very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Finding it hard to function at work/college/school
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of sex drive and/or sexual problems
- Physical aches and pains
- Thinking about suicide and death
- Talking about suicide and death
If you know that someone lives on their own, then make sure you have frequent contact with them so they don’t feel alone.
If you are concerned that someone might be at risk, then it is okay to ask them directly if they have had or are thinking about harming themselves. This may seem like a difficult question to ask, but it could save someone’s life.
Change the environment
If someone does tell you that they are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide then take them out of their environment and allow them to talk to you about it. Go for a walk and listen to them even if what they say doesn’t make sense to you. Exercising releases endorphins, which will improve their mood, the fresh air and change of scenery will also help to change their mindset.
You are not alone!
Remind the person that they are not alone, that you will listen to them without judgement and remain empathetic always. Saying something like, “I cannot imagine how painful this must be for you, but I would like to understand” is a good starting point for them to begin unwrapping their feelings. You could then ask them to make a list of reasons to live and reasons to die and then focus on the reasons to live in more detail. Although they may feel like suicide is the only option, remind them that suicide is a long-term solution for a short-term problem and that they do not need to face that problem alone.
Call a helpline
If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, professional help is available and there are several helplines that you can call to access support from trained mental health professionals.