Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide.
What drives so many individuals to take their own lives?
To those who are not in the grips of suicidal depression and despair, it’s difficult to understand what drives so many individuals to take their own lives. But a suicidal person is in so much pain that they can see no other option.
A suicide outcome is a complex combination of personal, social, and health factors, and therefore suicide prevention is a challenge, requiring a systems approach incorporating public health strategies, screening at-risk individuals, targeted interventions, and follow-up for suicide survivors and those bereaved by suicide.
When Will People Get Better at Talking About Suicide?
As suicide rates rise, and stigma recedes, many discussions and portrayals are still clumsy or hurtful.
Death is always messy and hard to understand, suicide even more so. The traumas and losses of people’s lives and the ways they respond to them are infinitely varied and context-dependent and that makes suicide hard to talk about.
One school of thought is that talking about suicide can give depressed individuals ideas of self-harm, but this is untrue. By engaging in honest communication about suicide, someone is more likely to seek out help. In many situations though, someone who is considering suicide might not come right out and say it, though there are people who do.
What are the warning signs?
“A really big suicide flag is a behaviour change.” - Matthew Steans, Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Stigma Statistics
It’s important to recognize the warning signs of both depression and suicide ideation so you know that someone may need to talk. If you notice someone focused on the subject of death and suicide, seems hopeless or despondent, or planning for after-death preparations, then you should definitely say something.
Expressing concern for a friend or loved one can be nerve wracking. By bringing up your concern however, you’re showing that person you care, and giving them the chance to talk about their feelings and thoughts.
Can Technology Become a Game-changer?
Technological developments offer new opportunities in suicide prevention, and the potential to reduce the number of deaths by suicide.
Current technological developments can be used to screen individuals at risk of suicide on the web; offer information and help regarding suicidal thoughts and behaviour; and offer web-based assessment, interventions, and follow-ups.
The use of data and technology widens accessibility to hard-to-reach individuals who do not always seek help in person and offers treatment opportunities to communities with lower access to care, such as rural communities, it can also help professionals offer better care to their patients by combining multiple approaches, such as using mobile apps to monitor symptoms or providing web-based therapeutic programs.
These advances will not exclude mental health clinicians but rather compliment and augment the current practices that are in place. Involving individuals with and suicidal thoughts will also be important in the development of digital technologies.
What Can You Do?
The following are 3 steps everyone can take to help address the problem.
1. Speak up if you’re worried
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care.
2. Respond quickly in a crisis
If a friend or family member tells you that they’re thinking about death or suicide, it’s important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in.
3. Offer help and support
The best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that they’re not alone and that you care. If someone indicates they are considering suicide, listen and take their concerns seriously.
Don't be afraid to ask questions about their plans. Let them know you care, and they are not alone. Encourage them to seek help immediately from a knowledgeable professional and don't leave them alone.
We Can All Prevent Suicide
Understanding the issues concerning suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention, help others in crisis, and change the conversation around suicide.
The more people start to recognize suicide prevention as a deeper issue, the more it will help stimulate a change.