As September 10th, World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) comes around each year, there may be many who, like me, reflect on the death by suicide of a precious family member, a much loved friend or a dear colleague. Someone who won’t be at those special events, celebrating a birthday, welcoming a new baby, or at the end of the phone for a chat.
Sadly, the latest statistics available for England and Wales (2021) show that there were 5583 deaths by suicides were registered, 6.9% higher than in 2020. On average that means that each day around 15 lives will be lost to suicide. Those tragic deaths impact people far beyond the immediate circle of the person who died. Most people I speak to know or know of someone who has died by suicide.
The theme for WSPD 2023 is Creating Hope through Action. And there has been some action. In August 2023 the government published a Suicide Prevention policy and provided a £10m Grant Fund to support suicide prevention activities in England for non-profit organizations.
There are charities small and large whose action is to promote mental health and wellbeing so that individuals don’t find themselves in situations where they are so emotionally trapped, desperate or distraught that at that point the only solution they see as available is to take their own life.
When our son, Jonathan died by suicide in 2017, the action we felt compelled to take was to found a charity in his name to work particularly in the intellectual property sector. One arm of that is to part fund research into understanding male suicide through a research project at the University of Glasgow Suicidal Laboratory. Susie Bennett is the researcher. She writes about her work here. https://jonathansvoice.org.uk/research-we-fund This extensive research will help us to understand better what action could be taken to reduce the number of deaths by suicide.
Actions individuals can take when they feel a person might be struggling are as diverse as the person themselves and as the individuals with whom they are interacting. However, listening to someone is something we may all have the opportunity to do. There’s much guidance about how to listen well but in essence it’s about listening actively with empathy not sympathy, avoiding introducing or own anecdotes, listening non judgementally and being honest and transparent.
Co-Founder and Trustee of Jonathan’s Voice