Friday 10 September marks World Suicide Prevention Day. It is a day close to my heart and dedicated to raising awareness of suicide and getting us all to think about what we can do to prevent it.
The latest statistics showed that in 2018, more than 6,800 people died by suicide in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Approximately three quarters of these were men.
This year’s theme is all about ‘creating hope through action’. So, what does hope mean? It will be unique to each individual. To me, it’s about:
- The stability of a home you know is secure and of good quality.
- Being able to have security of your finances and employment.
- Just knowing there are good people you can call upon in times of need for a coffee or a walk in the park.
- Knowing there are others who will fight your corner and support you to be the best version of yourself.
My own journey has been complicated. During my formative years at university, three of my friends took their own lives, including my best friend at the time. All very different sets of circumstances, all causing similar devastation for family, friends and wider networks who knew them. For the parents, dealing with the grief that comes with something you never expect to happen – losing your child. For friends and wider networks – losing someone who was cherished and loved, even if they didn’t see that themselves and felt better off not in this world.
Whilst I have been able to move forwards, in some ways what happens never leaves you. It filled me with a fire to not just accept the situation as it is. We can and need to do better. I firmly believe every suicide is preventable, and our aspiration must be to achieve the goal of zero suicide. I am so proud to know that many organisations across the country and the West of England have signed up to the work of the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA). This includes Bristol City Council, and we are calling for 10,000 people to sign up to the zero-suicide training across the area as part of this.
What else are we doing?
Through my own organisation, the Independent Mental Health Network, we launched the Shine On campaign in late 2019. This has focused on bringing more organisations together, to work in partnership to end suicide. We know that by working as a collective we can achieve more together than we can as individuals. This has seen us hold two highly successful regional summits on suicide prevention, both supported by leaders in the health sector and beyond, including Bristol’s Deputy Mayor, Asher Craig.
We work with organisations such as Changes Bristol, who are leading the charge locally on building peer support networks that are genuinely peer-led. We have collaborated with Second Step to support the Hope Project, which supports middle-aged men, the highest risk group when it comes to suicide. We have also funded Suicide Prevention Bristol, who are doing phenomenal work to support people thinking of taking their own life. Their latest campaign, “Not The Last Stop”, will be working with taxi companies to help them better recognise the signs of someone who may be struggling.
There are a range of resources to access if you need support or know someone who does. Here is one starting point: Guide – IMHN – Independent Mental Health Network.
Reach out, be that hope for someone who may be counting on it more than you realise.