On Friday 9th September (2011) I had the opportunity to attend a conference on suicide organised by Console. Console is a national organisation in Ireland dedicated to supporting those bereaved by suicide.
There was a range of speakers who were excellent – but coming away, should I feel optimistic or full of despair? Why these two choices? Well, first, look at the situation of suicide in this country.
486 people died by suicide in Ireland in 2010. In the same year 212 people died in Ireland on the road. Globally, over 1,000,000 people die by suicide. That’s more than war and murder combined. And that’s not the end of the hurt. One speaker estimated that for every suicide, 6 people are profoundly affected. That is, 6 people are affected to the extent that they will never forget, and never lose the scars of the hurt of losing someone close in this manner. So, you can see that there is plenty of reason to fear what’s going on.
Why do so many people die by suicide? There is no single identified cause. And the causes can vary from men to women, depend on the age of the victim, and depend on the social background of the victim.
Some of the emotions that underlie male suicide are:
Depression; Shame (over job loss, for example); Guilt (again, job loss, for example); Unhealthy grief (fellas don’t cope very well with the breakdown in a relationship); anger/rage; jealousy.
If a male is unable to deal with these emotions (many of them normal in a given situation), or if they try to suppress these emotions, then they may enter a downward spiral.
The spiral does not always end in suicide. People sometimes help themselves, they may get help from friends, they may get help from professionals. However, it is very important that they know that help is available.
Suicide is preventable. That is worth repeating. Suicide can be prevented.
Of the 486 people who died in Ireland by suicide in 2010, 386 were male and 100 were female. Four times as many fellas die by suicide as girls do. So, what can we do to help in this situation?
Well, know what some of the warning signs are:
Change in behaviour
Chronic tiredness, loss of ability to sleep
Loss of enjoyment of things that a person used to enjoy
Forgetfulness, poor concentration
Low self esteem
Don’t be afraid to ask the question:
If you’re worried about someone who you think may take their life, ask them if they are thinking of it.
The experts agree that asking the question doesn’t put the idea in someone’s mind. There are gentle ways of asking. For example: “Many people who have been through what you have been through think of suicide. Are you thinking of suicide?”
Don’t be afraid of the answer:
If someone does admit having thoughts of suicide to you, then that can be a very scary moment (for both of you). Try to stay calm, and assure the person that they did the right thing telling you, and that you can help them.
Know who to contact:
In Ireland our G.P is usually the first port of call for any illness. This is the same for suicidal thoughts. G.Ps are unshockable in this respect. Call the person’s G.P and explain the situation.
If the G.P is unavailable, and you think that the person is in immediate danger of taking their own life, call SouthDoc or get the person to your local A&E department.
There are many more available – but these are just a few for starters.
If you read this far then Suicide is already something that concerns you. In that case I hope that what I’ve written will be of some use to you.
Take care, and God Bless,