It’s hard to know what to do if you or someone you care about is feeling suicidal, but a new four-step campaign aims to help.
The Mental Health Foundation is launching the WAIT approach, which is based on four pieces of advice to help prevent people taking their own lives.
Of course, these snippets of advice are just the first step – but they may help start life-saving conversations:
Watch: Look out for signs of distress and uncharacteristic behaviour such as withdrawing from contact with other people, excessive quietness, irritability, uncharacteristic outbursts and talking about death or suicide.
Ask: Are you having suicidal thoughts? You might worry that asking about suicide will put the idea into someone’s head. But the opposite is true: asking about it makes suicide less likely and may start a life-saving conversation. Being able to talk about how they are feeling will help the other person feel better.
It will pass: Try to reassure the other person that their suicidal feelings will pass with time.
Talk: Encourage the other person to talk to others, and seek help from a GP or another health professional.
In 2018, there were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK. Three-quarters of these deaths were among men. Men in their late forties are at especially high risk of taking their own lives and women in this age group are also at relatively high risk. Suicides among young people are fewer – but the latest statistics show a troubling increase in recent years, the charity said.
Chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, Mark Rowland, who lost his brother to suicide, said: “We should not be so scared of suicide that we can’t talk about it.
“Suicide a devastating and gut-wrenching tragedy that ends a life and shatters countless others. But we also know that we can all help prevent such deaths, as individuals and as a society. We are not powerless.
“Far better to say something that feels awkward than to stay silent, whether you’re worried about another person or needing help yourself. Sometimes we need to talk about suicide.”
To launch the campaign, 100 mental health advocates and people affected by suicide gathered in Trafalgar Square in London to form a human green ribbon for World Mental Health Day.
“We held the event in Trafalgar Square because suicide is something that touches people all over the world and the square is a global landmark.” Rowland added. “Our advice is for anyone who might find it helpful.”
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.