Skip to main content

Suicide prevention

After what we’ve been through it’s OK to feel differently, and as we enter a new normal it is more important than ever to look after our physical and mental wellbeing.

This week, Senior Health Improvement Officer, Sean McLachlan, talks about suicide prevention.

The aim of the ‘Are You OK?’ campaign was to trigger a number of conversations around mental health. It has encouraged us to take notice of people around us and to speak to people who are struggling. In reality these are difficult conversations; we often don’t know how to broach a subject and worry about making matters worse. It is easier to think it’s none of our business, there are professionals who can deal with it and we’ve got our own problems. Talking about suicide is one of the hardest conversations.

For the last 14 years, the average suicide rate on the Isle of Man has been similar to the UK. The rate in men is three times that in women. Middle aged and divorcees are at higher risk. The methods people use are also very similar to the UK.

Only one third are in contact with mental health services and each suicide of someone of working age is estimated to cost the economy £1.7 million. But 115 deaths by suicide on the Isle of Man from 2006-18 is nonetheless shocking. Each represents a desperately sad tale and devastation for those left bereaved. But suicide is not inevitable, and is never the only option.

Most people have had a crisis, where stress feels overwhelming. And yet, the crisis has passed. Most people who kill themselves do not want to die, but cannot see any other way out. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

The reasons why someone takes their own life are usually complex. Layers that build up, making someone want to escape. The sooner we get through the stigma surrounding mental health and start the conversation, the less likely people are going to get to the stage that they think they have no options left.

There are lots of ways we might become concerned about someone. They may not be looking after themselves, they might be tearful, quiet or no longer interested in things they used to enjoy. Perhaps they are drinking more alcohol, not sleeping or lost their appetite. They may say they are ‘at their wit’s end’, ‘they can’t go on’, or they ‘feel like a burden’. In these circumstances, asking someone if they are considering suicide will not put the thought in their head. Using the word does not increase their risk, but does avoid confusion.

Suicide awareness should have the same profile as responding to a suspected stroke or basic CPR for heart attacks. To help you feel more equipped to talk about suicide, the Zero Suicide Alliance provide free online training.

Suicide can affect people from all walks of life, we all have a responsibility to support those around us. Do the training…..please.

If someone is hurting, ask them ‘Are you OK?’ It may make all the difference.