I’ve written quite a few blogs over the past few years. I must say that this one has been on my mind for many months. It covers a difficult subject. It covers a difficult subject for me. It covers a subject very personal to me.
I’m talking about suicide, in particular male suicide. I do appreciate that females commit suicide however the personal nature of this subject coupled with current statistics here in Scotland and across the UK suggest that across the age groups males are most likely to kill themselves than females. In recent weeks, I have read stories in our local and national newsprint of men being reported missing and being subsequently found dead. In many of these cases suicide is a factor. In many of these cases it’s men over 50 years of age.
As it does every year “World Suicide Prevention Day” took place on the 10th September. The background to this day is the 3000 people who across the world kill themselves every day. For every completed suicide, 20 or more individuals will attempt to kill themselves.
In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-44 year olds. Last year in Scotland 728 people killed themselves compared to 672 suicides the previous year. When you apply the lens of gender to these rates its clear being male is a significant risk factor. Here in Scotland the suicide rates for males was more than 2.5 times than that for females. A statistic I read recently. Men my age, 49 are 4 times more likely than women of my age. That scared me.
My own story pertains to the death of my father in 2008 who for all intents and purposes took his own life, unable to deal with his own hidden demons. This was an extremely difficult time for me, my brother, our children and for those who knew my dad. We spotted the signs, the warning signs, the red flags however the whole experience just accelerated and before we gained control it was too late. I often think to myself “could I have spotted these signs earlier?” If I had, would he have still been with us, able to celebrate my daughter’s subsequent graduation days, the successes of his other grandchildren, my retirement from the police and my wedding to a most wonderful human being. I know he would be proud of these events however he wasn’t there.
So, what’s my point. Well, like all form of violence suicide is preventable, it’s not inevitable. We need to find ways to talk about this killer. It’s a myth that talking about suicide provokes the act itself. We need to find ways to talk about our mental health in the same ways that we talk about our physical health. There still, remains a stigma on the subject, a stigma that needs to disappear. If we don’t do our bit there will be other events being missed by loved ones.
So, what’s the answer?
First thing it’s ok to talk about suicide either if you yourself are feeling this way or if you suspect that others are in this state of mind. Remember talking about suicide doesn’t provoke the act. Yes, it will be difficult but it’s what is needed to make any impact on the figures I have quoted above.
When it comes to males we often hear the phrase “men need to talk”. Think about it and try to put yourself in a situation where you have lost control, you feel isolated, worthless, useless and others would be better off without you. Honestly are you going to talk? Are you going to take the first step? You may do, if you feel you can talk to others who have created the conditions for this important conversation. For any person feeling vulnerable and who are supported in this way, it may allow them to open-up further.
For the men reading this blog we need men to create the conditions for our male friends and relatives to talk and discuss what’s on our minds. Let’s ditch this stoic guise that we as men often hide behind. It’s killing us.
We all need to be better informed on this subject. Like any form of violence, it has the potential to be personal to each and every one of us. Don’t wait for this to become a reality. Learn about the signs. DO THE KNOWLEDGE.
People who have previously tried to kill themselves.
Saying things like no one will miss me when I’m gone.
Saying goodbye to close family members.
What can you do?
Find an appropriate time and a quiet place to raise the issue. Let them know your concerns and that you are worried and there to help.
Encourage the person to seek help from a professional such as a doctor. Offer to accompany them to the appointment.
If you think there is an immediate danger don’t leave them alone. Seek professional help from the emergency services.
Stay in touch with that person.
Your intervention however small may either add to the list of ‘red flags’ or it may reduce the list.
I’ve said this many times before. We all have a role in the prevention of violence. Suicide is a form of violence (self-directed). Yes, it will be difficult to discuss but what’s the alternative? Be that hero that we all need at some time in our life’s. In the world of policing Locard’s exchange principle suggests that a perpetrator of a crime will bring something into the crime scene. Every contact will leave a trace is used to simplify this principle.
I want you to apply this principle when you are speaking to a person who may be thinking about suicide. The way you interact, your words, your time and patience will all leave a trace on that person. That trace will be the compassion, empathy and understanding that you bring to the moment. Never underestimate this first contact.
2018 marks the 10th anniversary of my fathers death. It hurts this year as it did last year. It hurts every year.
If you or someone you know needs support the following numbers may be useful:
Samaritans – 116 123
Breathing space – 0800 83 85 87 (http://www.suicide-prevention.org.uk/)
If in immediate need call 999