The World Health Organisation estimates that roughly 1 million people around the world die by committing suicide. In the UK, there were 6,581 suicides reported in 2014—this can be approximated to 18 suicides a day. The 10th of September marked the 14th annual World Sucide Prevention Day. The theme of this year was “Connect, Communicate, Care”. The message was clear: we need to pay more attention to those who are having suicidal thoughts, and show them that we care.
However devastating these numbers sound, they fail to encapsulate the damage that is left behind. Families and communities are often left torn and ruptured in the aftermath. The impact of suicide can’t be viewed as just an isolated event which effects only the family of the deceased, but rather as a ripple which quietly touches the community, workplace, and place of worship.
In order to prevent suicide, we must address the issues that cause people to take their lives. Mental health issues such as depression, schizophrenia and personality disorder play a key part in the myriad of issues that cause suicide.This can be exacerbated by poverty, homelessness, breakdown of relationships, war, the trauma of seeking refugee, and close exposure to suicide.
Many provisions have been made to help those who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Most these provisions involve organisations like the Samaritans and the Sucide Crisis Centre who offer support to those who need it. The theme of this years World Sucide Prevention Day resonates in the mantra of organisations like these. It is through communication and connection that volunteers on telephone lines can provide the support and care to those who need it. The NHS also encourages people to contact helplines if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Those who go directly to the NHS may be prescribed antidepressants. However, side effects of some antidepressants like Prozac can induce suicidal thoughts in patients. Effective treatment take time which these patient may not have.
At AHPN, we believe mental health should be a public health priority. The barriers that exist for Africans or people of African descent living in the UK to access mental health services suggests that there is much that needs to be done to address mental health issues and promote mental well-being. Various policy areas that look at a prevention agenda need to be developed, and the role of the voluntary sector to provide vital intervention needs to be resourced and recognised. Alongside this, ethnicity needs to be recognised on the national statistics for suicide.
Suicide is something that is preventable. It is up to us to raise awareness on the topic, and look at people who are having suicidal thoughts with an empathetic and caring gaze.