The 10th of September, is World Suicide Prevention day.
It is a day that often passes unmarked, and unmentioned. However, awareness of suicide, how widespread it is, the numbers, the provision available to suicidal people is of the highest importance.
Every single suicide is preventable. Some may take their own lives as a means of control over a fatal, incurable illness takes them. However, according to the NHS, 90% of those who kill themselves have a diagnosed mental illness.
Suicide facts and figures
Every year many thousands of people commit suicide; they are commonplace. Though they rarely reach the news, each case represents not only the death of an individual, but also the butterfly effect of a family torn apart, each of their loved ones suffering the endlessness of grief, and the pain of their loved one's loss.
The numbers are devastating.
• In 2014, in the UK there were 6,581 registered suicides (552 in London alone), which counts as roughly 18 per day (Mental Health Foundation 2015 report).
• In the USA, in 2013 there were 41,149 reported suicides (Centre for Disease Control website), which counts as 112 per day, almost five an hour, or one every fifteen minutes. The most common method being through firearms.
These figures obviously don't include the far larger number of attempted suicides, so the number of people suffering such tremendous agony that they consider killing themselves as an option, is incalculable.
Men generally commit suicide more often than women, in the UK 78% of all suicides in 2013 were comitted my men. The rate is so high that suicide is the leading cause of death in men aged between 20-49 years. However, according to data published by The Samaritans, the female rate of suicide is rising, and is at its highest point since 2005.
Mental health issues are a common underlining reason behind suicide. These problems can be exacerbated via:
• Family/relationship breakdown
• Close exposure to suicide, especially if its a family friend or loved one; suicide can cause a chain reaction.
• Returning from a war zone (according to the US department of Veteran Affairs, in 2014, 22 veterans committed suicide per day). This is even more notable, because as is mentioned earlier, the number of total suicides in the UK per day in the same year were fewer. PTSD can be a factor.
The causes are very vast, with no clear unifying factor, aside from mental illness. Therefore, suicidal thoughts need to be tackled as soon as they appear. However, in the UK at least, the provision available for suicidal people leave much to be desired.
Provisions and problems
There are many provisions to help those feeling suicidal, mainly via telephone, the most well known and oldest being The Samaritans.
This charity, in any part of the country, 24hrs a day, is manned by volunteers who listen to those who feel that there is nobody in the world for them to talk to. Though Samaritan's support is not solely focused on suicide, it forms a large part. What they do is vital and almost certainly life saving. However, they receive almost no financial support from the government, which is unacceptable.
It is quite possible that this organisation could one day cease operations, or perhaps not operate to the extent hat they do currently. This would be disastrous.
Many other bodies providing support for the suicidal are in an equally perilous position, such as the May Tree Sanctuary in London, PAPYRUS, Turn2Me, and many more.
Even the NHS, through their website, suggests those feeling suicidal to call these numbers, alongside, ironically, the non-emergency NHS number 111.
Those looking to go through the NHS directly, are usually prescribed medication fairly quickly. However, this too can be problematic, as some antidepressants can initially cause suicidal thoughts as a side effect. As well as medication, people are advised or referred advised to see a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist or a counsellor .
This is similar to what I was prescribed. However, the medication that was initially offered was ineffective (fluoxetine) and all the CBT practitioner did was assign me worksheets that had been printed from an Australian anxiety/depression charity.
Effective treatment takes too much time, time that someone on the verge of suicide simply does not have.
As I have mentioned in a previous blog post, of the money spent in health research (which alone is not sufficiently funded) only 5% goes into the research of mental health issues. Issues that cause tremendous suffering, pain, and isolation, even without suicidal thoughts.
The current problems with the NHS are vast and well reported but in my mind, however, the NHS does the greatest good of any service or governmental organisation. But were the NHS functioning healthily, the lack of parity between the research and treatment of physical illness and mental illness, would be deeply troubling. However when the NHS is underfunded and crippled, the effects are disastrous. Leaving the mentally ill, and the suicidal with insufficient public care previsions.
Awareness of the provisions available to those who are suicidal, the preventative measures, and the problems faced, therefore, seems to be of paramount importance.