Caroline Harper, Clinical Lead for Mental Health at Bupa UK comments on the new ONS Research for UK Suicide rates: “From the earliest days of the pandemic there was concern that suicide rates would increase. However, new research released by ONS has found suicide rates decreased in the first few months of 2020 – for both males and females, and across all age groups.
Whilst this is a positive step, it’s important to continue to raise awareness of the support available for anyone feeling suicidal, especially with previous research from the Mental Health Foundation finding an increase in adults experiencing suicidal thoughts during the pandemic.
Suicidal thoughts and feelings can affect anyone at any time, regardless of your age, gender, or background. There’s no ‘one reason’ that causes you to experience these thoughts – any changes to your life can affect how you feel, and these can happen to anyone.
There’s no getting away from the fact that this has been a tough period for our mental health. For instance, high levels of anxiety and depression have been reported while the country has been in lockdown. As we navigate our way out of the pandemic, we must continue to raise awareness of the mental health support available for everyone.
No one should suffer in silence or think that nothing can be done. If you or a loved one are struggling with your mental health, it’s important to seek medical help at the right time.”
What are some of the warning signs that someone may be feeling suicidal?
If someone may be feeling suicidal, you might notice a change in their behaviour. They may withdraw away and avoid contact from their loved ones, have frequent mood swings, and become anxious.
You might notice that they’re acting recklessly and saying negative things about themselves, too. Becoming more confrontational or quiet, and sleeping too much or too little are other possible signs that someone may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.
All of these are warning signs that someone is experiencing problems with their mental health, so it’s important to always support your loved one through these difficult times.
How to cope with suicidal thoughts:
If you’re having suicidal thoughts, know that you’re not alone. Taking your own life is never the right solution to any challenge you may be facing.
Firstly, help and support is available right now if you need it – there are free helplines (Samaritans and CALM) available for you to talk to. You may feel more comfortable texting instead of calling – there are text lines (SHOUT and Young Minds) open 24 hours a day, every day.
Let those closest around you know what’s going on, and how you’re feeling. Starting this conversation is an important step in managing suicidal thoughts. It can feel a huge relief to open-up about how you’re feeling.
Try not to focus too much on the future and take it one day at a time. Making a list of the positive things in your life and what you like about yourself. Whilst this may be difficult, try to add to the list every day.
How to support a friend who is feeling suicidal:
1. Listen but don’t judge
If you’re worried about a loved one having suicidal thoughts, you should let them know it’s OK to open-up and talk to you about how they’re feeling. This can be tough at first but start with small but direct questions like “tell me about…” or “how do you feel about…”, as these open questions may encourage them to speak up.
While it can be a challenging topic to open-up about, it can also provide a sense of relief to confide in others, as well as opening avenues to get further help.
2. Focus on the small gestures
If they’re feeling suicidal, your friend or loved one may avoid contact with you. It’s important to check in and ask them how they are – a simple gesture like this can really help. Take time to listen to their response, as it can make a huge difference to how they’re feeling.
3. Let them know you care
Reassure your loved one that you’re here for them, and that their life is important to you. Often those who are suicidal may feel worthless or a burden to those around them, so let them know that they are valued by saying something like “you’re important to me”. Reassurance, respect, and support can help someone to recover from a difficult time.
4. Share the support available
There’s lots of support out there for those who feel suicidal and it’s crucial to share these support networks with them. If they’re not sure where to seek support, encourage them to speak to their GP as a starting point.
There are also charities – like the Samaritans – that can help and offer 24-hour support lines, so they can access help whenever they need it. If they are in immediate danger, the fastest way to get help is to call an ambulance on 999.
There’s no perfect way to have this conversation, but as long as you’re listening to them and you’re showing you understand, this can help someone feel supported.
5. Get support for yourself
Supporting someone who is struggling can be tough, so it’s important to look out for yourself, too; especially after the tough year we’ve all faced. Give yourself time to rest and speak to someone close if you’re struggling.
You can also get support from groups like Samaritans or SANEline, who can provide you with practical advice on how to support your loved one, as well as how to look after your own mental health.