The impact of suicide
The impact of suicide on the families and society is considerable, so why is it that in 2013 there were 6,233 successful suicides recorded? This means that in every 85 minute period someone kills themselves, according to the Office for National Statistics. Or in a little over 7 hours – 4 men and 1 woman die by their own hands. Sadly, this does not reflect the number of people who commit suicide by hidden ways, like the brave army officer who stands in front of a terrorist, which can be considered suicide by another, or the individuals who make their suicide seem like an accident.
Help make a difference
Positive Psychologists have a major role to help in this area by helping the men and women who feel that suicide is the way forward and helping with their families too. What is it that we can do to help make a difference? Part of this will start with understanding the reasons people want to commit suicide, which range from desperation, wishing not to be a burden on others, right through to experimenting or testing and just losing hope.
One of the first things to understand is that up to 95% of us will form a plan to commit suicide at sometime in our life! For men this increases in the 40 plus age group and there are also massive jumps in widowed men, within the first two years of being widowed. For patients, it is within two weeks of being discharged or losing the support of a key worker.
The importance of this blog
For me this message, or should I say this blog, is important, because I have had those suicidal plans and because I have helped and cared for many people who have later committed suicide and for even more who survived their suicidal plans. In my time as a nurse, I learnt many lessons from the simple one of offering kindness to the person. This starts with being authentic and direct. Asking the person “how are they feeling?” is a good start, as long as you go on to ask “are you suicidal?”. The person will value this and consider you someone trustworthy and helpful, because you are acknowledging their right to feel the despair. However, they won’t tell you the truth, the reality is different. About 95% will tell you the truth, but once they say that they are suicidal, then you can ask them about why? What feelings lead them to this feeling?
What you can do to help
It may be that you will need to challenge the person to go and get professional support and you can go with the person, if they give permission. This has the advantage of allowing them to feel valued and cared for and also getting them into the hands of someone who can help them.
The other thing you can do with the person who is suicidal is to book appointments in the future for something that you both would enjoy, perhaps going out for tea or to the movies. Again this confirms their worth and builds the relationship, which Dr Martin Seligman says is one of the pillars to well being. A final thought is that often these appointments do not need to be big. Small kindnesses matter and in some respects small kindnesses often build most.
David Rawcliffe, MAPP