What is World Suicide Prevention Day and why is it important?
World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that every year, suicide accounts for more deaths than war and homicide combined. One in every 100 deaths worldwide is the result of suicide. There is still a lot of stigma attached to this topic. Some people say that those who have taken their own lives gave up, or were weak. That is not the case. My perspective may be controversial, but I believe that mental health should be treated the same way as physical health. If someone fights an illness like cancer for days, weeks, months, years…if the illness overcomes them, no one would think to say that they gave up.
1 in 100 people in the world are not weak. 1 in 100 people in the world are not overreacting or selfish. If you are lucky enough to have never been to the brink, you cannot claim to understand someone that has. Suicide is not something that we should shy away from discussing.
By raising awareness, reducing the stigma around suicide and encouraging well-informed action, we can reduce instances of suicide around the world. World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of suicide and to promote action through proven means that will reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts globally.
This day is not just important, it is crucial. United, we can all work to reduce shame, stigma and silence and help suicide rates fall.
This year’s theme: “Creating Hope Through Action“
Each year has a different theme and focus, to bring to light a specific aspect of suicide prevention. This year’s theme, which will be the theme until 2023, is ‘Creating Hope Through Action’, which aims to empower people with the confidence to engage with the complexity of ‘hope’.
People who are suicidal may feel trapped or like a burden to their friends, family and those around them and thus feel like they are alone and have no other options. By creating hope through action, we can signal to people experiencing suicidal thoughts that there is hope and that we care and want to support them. Through action, you can make a difference to someone in their darkest moments – as a member of society, as a child, as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbour. We can all play a role in supporting those experiencing a suicidal crisis or those bereaved by suicide.
‘Creating Hope Through Action’ is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and aims to inspire confidence and light in all of us. Our actions, no matter how big or small, can provide hope to those who are struggling.
Today, I’d like to share the things I do to help me feel hopeful when I’m going through a difficult time. I find it especially difficult to reach out to friends or family, or to do much of anything, on the low days. So these are mostly low effort activities you can do by yourself if you don’t have the energy to “people”.
- Go for a walk. Changing my environment and getting fresh air can help reset my mind and clear my head. Focusing on the unfamiliar smells and sensations can drag me out of my spiral. Even if I just lay down on the grass in my garden, a change of scenery is refreshing.
- Listen to music. There are a lot of bands that help me turn a down day around by giving me some fight. To me, the opposite of depression isn’t happiness, it’s energy. Plus, having a song I love stuck in my head is much better than listening to my inner negativity.
- Write. This one is tricky; on down days I can stare at a screen for hours before something will click and the words flow. But being able to vent in a medium I’m more comfortable with, even if I don’t show anyone else, helps organise my thoughts and release some pent up irritation.
- Shake it out. Sing. Dance. It doesn’t have to be good. Jump around, shake the tension out, move your body and work up a sweat. Exercise releases endorphins, which are believed to lessen stress and anxiety. Sing louder than your fear.
- Laugh. If I can’t shake a down day, I watch meme compilations on YouTube. Usually DnD memes or Star Wars Prequel memes.
- Play games. Depending on my mood, I can fire up the console or the PC and play something. I’ll flick through games until something sticks. Even if it’s a mindless activity, if I can’t actively engage with the game, the act of doing something familiar takes my mind off things and keeps me occupied. Playing social games, either online or tabletop, if headspace allows can also help.
- Make something. Paint, play-doh, papercraft. Keeping my hands busy, and having something tangible in my hands, something I can see that I made an impact on. NB: I am terrible at crafts, I make a huge mess and whatever comes out the other side doesn’t look the way I expected. But it’s mine. It’s wonky and messy and awkward, and mine.
- Gardening. Even if you only have potted plants on a windowsill, getting in touch with nature and focusing on simple tasks is healing.
How can you help?
- Take threats seriously. Some people seem to think that someone openly discussing suicidal thoughts is only trying to get attention. Please understand that a large percentage of people that threaten suicide go through with it. Most people that have committed suicide have communicated their intent, either blatantly or subtly.
- Talk about it. If you are worried that someone may be thinking about suicide, talk to them. One common misconception is that talking about suicide will make someone more likely to do it. This is not true. Talking to someone about their suicidal thoughts does not make them more likely to end their life, or put the idea into their head. You can help someone with suicidal thoughts by listening, without judging them.
- Seek outside help. You can support someone to think about other options to deal with their feelings. Such as accessing support from the NHS (or your local health service), charities or self-help. There is a wealth of information online, and some useful links at the bottom of this post.
- Small kindnesses. Small gestures such as saying ‘hello’ or asking, ‘how are you today?’ can sometimes make a big difference to how someone is feeling. Lets support and love each other. You do not need to tell someone what to do or have any solutions; just making the time and space to listen to someone about their experiences of distress or suicidal thoughts can help. Small talk can save lives and create a sense of connection and hope in somebody who may be struggling. Not all mental health difficulties can be seen. Sparing a kind word won’t hurt you, and it can save a life.
- Share your stories. If you feel comfortable, please share your stories. Whether its poetry, music, rambling blog posts: whatever works. It’s hard to put these things down, trust me, so if you share your story then please make sure you do so in a way that is safe for you and for your readers. Sharing personal experiences of distress, suicidal thoughts or attempts, and recovery can inspire hope that maybe there is a way out of the dark spiral that leads to suicide. Sharing experiences of being bereaved through suicide can be instrumental in helping others experiencing this loss, and give them hope that they will be able to live through and with the loss.
References and useful links:
These sites give great information on suicide, mental health, and how you can help and find help. Please reach out if you need help. You deserve help.
In memory of those lost to suicide and the bereaved left behind, show your support for suicide prevention by lighting a candle at 8pm on 10th September, wherever you are in the world. A global voice is a powerful voice.
You’re not alone. Keep fighting. Stay safe.