What is it?
Suicide is the term to describe when someone intentionally takes their own life. However, suicide is a progression from a person having suicidal thoughts, planning how to end their life, attempting suicide by implementing their plan and finally ending their life by suicide.
Suicide is on the rise and men are particularly at risk of suicide. According to the Samaritans men at mid-life (between the ages of 45-59) have reached their highest rates of suicide at 25.1 per 100,000. This is the highest level of suicide in this group for more than 30 years. In a study by the Office for National Statistics in 2013 the suicide rate in women was 5.1 per 100,000. Women are significantly less likely to commit suicide than men. Suicidal thoughts are common and this does not mean you are going to commit suicide; many people have suicidal thoughts and do not commit suicide.
What causes it?
Suicide is very complex and no one reason is attributed as a cause of suicide. It is reported that many individuals who decide to take their life have mental health issues including problems with alcohol and depression. Suicide is often linked to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.
Signs and symptoms (how to spot them)
Suicidal thoughts can be a side effect for some when they are first prescribed antidepressants. This seems to particularly affect young adults. Therefore, if you start taking antidepressants it is worth monitoring your thoughts and behaviours to evaluate if the medication is making you worse. Telling a family member or friend may be useful so they can help you to identify any changes. If you notice any negative changes inform your GP immediately or seek help.
You may be vulnerable to suicide if:
· If you have mental health issues such as severe depression, alcoholism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, self-harm, anorexia nervosa, anxiety, psychosis, body dysmorphia or drug addiction
· If you have poor relationships resulting in your isolation and social exclusion
· If you have a history of neglect and abuse, have experienced a traumatic event in childhood and experienced both physical and sexual abuse
· If you live in poverty, are unemployed or have little job security
· If there is a history of suicide in your family there may be a genetic link
· If you have experienced a stressful event such as a relationship break up, a diagnosis of a terminal illness, losing a job or a bereavement
Warning signs may include:
· Threatening to kill yourself
· Stockpiling medication
· Those who sort out their belongings and make a will can be a sign of preparation
· Threatening to hurt yourself
· Acting recklessly not to caring about any consequences
· Feeling trapped, hopeless and seeing no other way out
· Self-harming more than usual including the misuse of alcohol and drugs
· The use of pro-suicide websites
· Feeling like your life has no purpose and meaning
· Becoming increasingly withdrawn from every part of your life
Suicide is a difficult subject for many to talk about. However, it is vitally important that you seek help if you believe yourself or someone you know to be suicidal. It is important to listen and support people who feel this way and to allow them to talk about how they feel. Equally, if you are supporting someone who is suicidal it is important to look after yourself and seek support too.
Talking treatments such as counselling and psychotherapy can be useful providing a safe and confidential space to explore thoughts and feelings. Strategies can be formulated and a support plan to help individuals manage the way they feel and so they know what they can do if they become in crisis. If in crisis individuals can access support immediately by accessing their local A&E department, emergency GP appointments and support services over the phone are available such as the Samaritans on 116 123.
If you have lost someone to suicide
Losing someone to suicide can often lead to mixed emotions for the ones who have been left behind. It can be a difficult subject to talk about and you may be left searching for answers and meaning. It can leave you with the question “why?” and often you may never fully know the reason why your loved one took their life. Finding acceptance can be a difficult journey and there is medical support available to help you process what has happened. Losing a loved one to suicide can throw up many emotions including abandonment, rejection and anger. Working with a professional counsellor could help you cope with your loss. Those who have experienced a loved one committing suicide are at an increased risk of developing suicidal thoughts themselves. Therefore, it is important to seek the help and support that you need if you feel in crisis.
By Helen Rutherford