By George Maxwell
Updated on 19/07/2015
I’ve collated a lot of information on this page related to the phenomenon of suicidal thoughts and the act itself however, first and foremost, I need to stress that if you feel you are at risk presently then you need to bypass this information and jump ahead to the section “What to do in the event of feeling suicidal.” Unfortunately (Disclaimer time!), I and this website cannot provide a crisis service for you and therefore it is imperative that you take appropriate steps to access care wherever you reside. The contacts and guidance that I provide below are provided for your information to enable you to take responsibility for your own safety.
A global problem.
Suicidal thoughts are a significant feature of depression but a phenomenon which much of society struggles to talk about. Whilst, fortunately, the vast majority of people who experience suicidal thoughts do not act upon them, the number of deaths which occur through suicidal action points to it being a major public health concern. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that 800,000 people die at their own hands across the world each year. In the UK, there were 6233 deaths by suicide recorded for the year 2013, an increase upon the previous year by 4%, whilst in the US, there were 41,149 deaths by suicide recorded for the same year. Particularly concerning is that, for some age groups, suicide is the main cause of death, above physical illness or accidents. For instance, if you are aged between the ages of 20 and 34 in the UK, then you are more likely to die by taking your own life than by any other means, male or female. Globally, the WHO identifies suicide as being the second biggest killer of people aged 15 to 29.
Men need more help.
Men are particularly at risk. UK statistics place suicide as the biggest killer of males between the ages of 20 and 49. Statistics published in the UK in 2014 indicated that over 3 times as many males compared to females took their own lives in 2013. In Canada, males are 4 times more likely to take their own lives than females and in the US this is between 3 to 5 times more likely. In Australia, men account for 3 out of every 5 suicides. Clearly then, there is some importance in recognising that a) suicide is a serious public health issue and b) it is more of a risk for you if you are a male.
Challenging the stigma
When I work with clients who report that they are experiencing suicidal thoughts, and, by way of normalising and taking the fear away from some of their symptoms, tell them about these data, they are more often than not shocked and surprised at the scope of the suicide problem. It’s not too difficult to understand why. How often do you see adverts on TV or magazines about different cancers, diabetes or famines in others parts of the world? From where I’m standing, I’ll say I see some form of “raising awareness” for these issues on a daily basis, and yet, aside from some strategically placed Samaritans posters on the upper floors of multi-storey car-parks, there is very, very little by way of making people aware of the very real problem of suicide. I imagine that there are a number of explanations as to why this cultural lack of suicide awareness exists, ranging from old fashioned perspectives on mental health, a societal misunderstanding that people who take their own lives do it through “selfish” reasons rather than through extreme mental distress, or through an unwillingness to accept the reality of suicide for religious, social or political reasons. Whatever the reasons are for a society-wide avoidance of talking about the issue, the consequence is that people don’t know how to deal with these thoughts, they feel embarrassed or ashamed about having them and they keep them to themselves without accessing appropriate help, with suicidal action being the end catastrophic consequence. Sadly, the only weak spurt of acknowledgment of the issue in the media arises following the suicide (or attempted suicide) of a celebrity after the event, and this is often enveloped in morbid sensationalism, rather than as the consequence of a genuine untreated illness that may have been prevented if society was more attuned to its symptoms.
What to do to get help
An increase in suicide risk is associated with depression and is not something which we should underestimate. Fortunately, the vast majority of individuals who experience depression do not take their own lives, however the experience of suicidal thoughts is much more common and can be very frightening to the individual who experiences them. The following guidance is to support you in accessing appropriate help in the event of experiencing suicidal thinking. This advice is not exhaustive.
I’ve included a list of useful contact numbers below to give you further information and support in relation to managing suicide risk. Again, the list is not exhaustive – if you know of any agencies which could be included here then please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Campaign against living miserably (C.A.L.M.).
A charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. Helplines are open from 5pm until midnight, 365 days a year. Contact 0800 58 58 58 if you are outside London or 0808 802 58 58 if you are calling from within London. Their website can be found at www.thecalmzone.net.
A charity which focuses upon the prevention of suicide in people under the age of 35. Their helpline, “HOPEline,” is open on weekdays from 10am until 10pm and at weekends and bank holidays from 2pm until 5pm. You can call them on 0800 068 41 41, email them at email@example.com or text them on 07786 209 697. Their website can be found at www.papyrus-uk.org.
A charity dedicated to offering support for whatever is distressing you. Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Can be contacted by phone on 08457 90 90 90 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website can be found at www.samaritans.org.
National suicide prevention lifeline.
Skilled, trained counsellors available to speak to 24/7. Contact 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak to one of their counsellors. Alternatively you can visit their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org and follow the links for secure online direct chat.
A national charity offering crisis support and suicide prevention helplines. They can be contacted by telephone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 13 11 14, or you can use their webchat service which is available from 7pm until 4am, 7 days a week by going to their website at www.lifeline.org.au.
Kids help line.
Provides support for individuals between the ages of 5 and 25 years old. Telephone support can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 55 18 00, or you can visit their website at www.kidshelp.com.au to access web counselling or email counselling (times vary).