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World Suicide Prevention Day – Working Together to Prevent Suicide

By Katharine Anderson
Held annually on 10th September, World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) offers the opportunity for people to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention. The reality of suicide is not pleasant; however, it is not a reality we can avoid. It takes effort and understanding to help prevent suicide, and we must be prepared to grapple with the complexities to be able to support ourselves and others.

The statistics are saddening. According to Samaritans, in 2018, 6,859 suicides were recorded in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. In the UK, the highest rate of suicide is currently among men aged 45-49. Suicide rates among children and young people have increased, with the suicide rate for young females now being at its highest rate on record.

Globally, every year:

suicide prevention
Suicide is complex, and the reasons why someone resorts to taking their own life is deeply personal. We can say that suicide is influenced by a combination of factors: adverse childhood experiences, stressors in early life, recent triggers and/or events such as bereavement, mental or physical ill-health, loss, and grief, to name but a few examples. Experiencing such events does not mean someone will take their own life; many people who experience adversity do not go on to die by suicide.

Evidence from individuals who have survived a suicide can help us to understand the taboos. One of the biggest myths surrounding suicide is a hesitance of talking about suicide, out of the fear that it may instigate vulnerable individuals to trigger the act or contemplate the idea of suicide. This is not the case. Offering support, and a listening ear are more likely to reduce discomfort and distress, not exacerbate it. A listening ear which is compassionate, empathetic and one without judgement, can support and restore hope. Suicidal thoughts do not tend to linger in the mind for a long time; they can be interrupted.

Losing someone to suicide
A whole range of emotions can be felt when you hear the news that you have lost someone due to circumstances of suicide. Being bereaved by suicide has been described as ‘grief with the volume turned up’; each person will be impacted in their own way. There are no wrong or right feelings to experience, and how you feel may change hourly, daily or weekly.


What we can do
People are often reluctant to intervene, worrying their input could make things worse. Perhaps it can feel tricky to know what the right thing is to say. The International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) has created a short film called ‘Step Closer’ which harnesses an encouraging message of how connections and connecting to others can be one of the simplest ways to support someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts. You can watch the film here. It is only 1 minute 52 seconds long.

Learn the signs

There are signs we can look out for when it comes to suicide. Emergency signs include someone threatening to hurt themselves or talking of wanting to die. Warning signs may include hopelessness, withdrawing, an increase in anxiety, agitation, or an increase in risk-taking activities. If someone is acting out of the ordinary, one of the most supportive things we can do is notice this and support that person to get the help they need.

Know how to help

The campaign ‘Take 5 to Save Lives’ suggests the following steps:

  1. Ask if the person is thinking about suicide. Be direct, using statements which are not fluffy. Ask “have you had thoughts of suicide?”, “have you thought about when you would do it?” and “do you ever feel so bad that you think about suicide?” This can be a difficult conversation to launch in to. How about starting with: “you haven’t seemed like yourself recently – is anything going on?”, or “I’m worried about you, are you okay?”
  2. Listen without judgement. Let the person talk without interruption and make them feel heard. Avoid minimising, shaming, sharing your opinion, arguing or challenging the person, preaching or prophesying and making promises. Let the person speak and make them feel heard.
  3. Respond with kindness and care. Always take the person seriously. Stay calm, acknowledge the pain the person is experiencing as real. Convey care, stay and be with the person while they need you. Supportive statements such as, “I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help”, are useful here.
  4. Follow-up with the person and support where you can; but not above your ability. If someone is considering taking their life, it will be important for crisis intervention services to take the lead. Their feelings and their responses are not your sole responsibility. You can continue to ask, listen and respond, where helpful.


  • Take 5 to Save Lives
    The campaign encourages everyone to take 5 minutes out of the day and give through:

    • Learn the warning signs
    • Do your part
    • Practise self-care
    • Reach out
    • Spread the word
  • RUOK?
    The movement inspires others to help break the silence and ask, ‘are you ok?’ to support someone who is struggling.
  • ‘Help is at Hand: Support after someone may have died by Suicide’ – a resource by the NHS (access the document here).

Who to contact? 

In a crisis:

  • Samaritans: call 116 123
  • Shout (for support in crisis): Text SHOUT to 85258
  • Mind
  • Calm: 0800 58 58 58 (service available 5 pm to midnight daily)

For support, help and advice:

Finally, you can find the company policy on suicide and self-harm here, or by going to Connect – Policies – Clinical – Assessment and Therapy Policies – Children and Young Persons Suicide and Self Harm Policy. Please note this policy is currently under review and is subject to change.

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