Today, 10th September, is World Suicide Prevention Day. Reaching out for help or reaching out to help – even with a few simple words – can save lives.
Yesterday, my doctor asked me straight out: “Are you suicidal?” I was talking to him, among other things, about the resurgence of depression I’ve experienced since being hit by a car four weeks ago. As low as I’ve been at times lately, the question still took me a little by surprise. I didn’t have to think about the answer. I told him straight out: “No.”
That answer doesn’t come as easy to everyone. Worryingly, the opposite answer comes too easily to many people. And more worryingly still, some of those people feel they need to keep that answer to themselves. Every year, more than 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide – about 1 person every 40 seconds – and for every one person who dies, there are over 20 more people who attempt to. It doesn’t have to happen.
Reaching Out and Saving Lives is the theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day. In her video message to launch the day, Prof. Ella Arensman, President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) pointed out that:
“For many people who survive a suicide attempt, their main intent was not to die but to have a different life. This important insight should encourage all of us… to reach out to support people improving their quality of life.”
In the Mind Matters section of this blog, I’ve written quite a bit about how important communication is in not only breaking down the stigma around mental health issues but also breaking down the isolation that is so often at the heart of depression. When depression gets to the life-and-death level of suicide, that communication becomes the most urgent and maybe most powerful tool in saving people’s lives. The recent story of the Dublin teenager who asked a suicidal man “Are you okay?” is testament to that.
— Humans of Dublin (@humansofdub) August 3, 2015
That’s the beginning of reaching out. Even just those three words. And it can work either way. Whether you are worried for someone else’s safety or whether you are worried for your own, three words – “Are you okay?” or “I’m not okay” – could quite literally save a person’s life. It can be the beginning of that different life. Instead of dying, that man is now expecting a child, already named after the kid who asked him if he was okay.
Don’t wait for someone to reach out to you. Whether you’re reaching out to help or reaching out for help, you can always reach out first.
Here are some useful links and resources.
- 10 things that can help now if you have suicidal feelings – from SuicidePrevention.ie
- Understanding depression is crucial for reducing suicide rates. In Ireland, men are four to five times more likely than women to commit suicide. Even still, many of these 11 Things No One Tells Guys with Depression will apply to women too.
- safeTALK, a half-day suicide awareness course, is being hosted by the HSE in Donabate, Dublin on Tuesday next, 15th September. Contact Roisin Lowry at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01-897 6121
There are plenty of mental health and suicide prevention organisations and groups in Ireland. If you or someone you know needs to, please get in touch with one of these organisations, or find the ones local to you.
HSE mental health website: www.yourmentalhealth.ie