SUICIDE tears lives apart – and it can affect anyone.
In the UK it’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
According to the Movember Foundation, new preliminary data suggests that the male suicide rate in England has jumped 12 per cent since last year.
Provisional numbers from the Office for National Statistics for October to December, combined with the figures for the rest of the year shows there were 3,737 male suicides in 2018.
In 2017 that figure was 12 per cent lower at 3,328 deaths.
By comparison, there were 1,123 female suicides in 2017, while the new data suggest this was up seven per cent to 1,200 for last year.
Owen Sharp, chief executive of the Movember Foundation, told The Sun Online: “New stats released last month by the ONS, showed an alarming rise in the numbers of people who took their own lives last year.
Although the reasons for this aren’t yet clear, we do know that that men were particularly affected. In 2018 the male suicide rate rose by 12 per cent.
Three out of the four people who die by suicide each year are male. And it remains the biggest killer of men under 44.
“Something has to be done to stop lives being cut short and prevent families losing out on years with the fathers, sons, brothers and friends they love.
“There are no simple solutions to this crisis because everyone is influenced by different factors.”
Big life events, like a death in the family, divorce and redundancy can leave people feeling vulnerable and trigger mental health issues.
But we can all do our bit to help prevent deaths from suicide.
That’s why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign, to remind those in the grips of mental illness that there is hope and to encourage people to watch out for the warning signs a loved one could be in trouble.
We can all help
Something as subtle as a change in attitude, or a friend withdrawing from the group, could be a key warning sign something is wrong, experts told The Sun Online.
But a simple, “are you OK?”, could make all the difference, Lorna Fraser of the Samaritans said.
“The most important thing to remember about suicide is that it is preventable,” she said.
“And while experiencing suicidal feelings or thoughts can feel very intense, the feelings are treatable and they will pass.
That’s really important because very often when people are in that place they can’t see that will be possible.
“They’ve lost sight of getting to a point where life will feel OK, because right now it feels like life will never be OK again.”
Suicidal thoughts are often the result of problems building up, Lorna explained.
When a person feels they can’t cope, hopeless, frustrated and alone, they can believe there is no other way out.
But we can all do our bit to help, Lorna added.
The key signs your loved one is at risk of suicide
There are several warning signs that a person is at risk of suicide. But it’s vital to know that they won’t always be obvious.
While some people are quite visibly in pain and become withdrawn and depressed, others may continue their life as normal pretending everything is fine.
Look out for subtle personality changes in friends and family, especially if you know they have been going through a tough time, Lorna told The Sun Online.
These are the key signs to watch out for:
A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating less than normal
Struggling to sleep, lacking energy or appearing particularly tired
Drinking, smoking or using drugs more than usual
Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy
Becoming withdrawn from friends and family – not wanting to talk or be with people
Appearing more tearful
Appearing restless, agitated, nervous, irritable
Putting themselves down in a serious or jokey way, for example ‘Oh, no one loves me’, or ‘I’m a waste of space’
Losing interest in their appearance, not liking or taking care of themselves or feeling they don’t matter
What should you do if you think someone is at risk?
Asking someone if they are OK can feel daunting, especially if you suspect they aren’t.
The easiest thing to do is to look the other way and hope someone else asks instead.
But, stepping up and asking the question could make all the difference. It shows you care, that you’re there to help and reminds them they are not alone.
“It’s really important for us to be aware of the warning signs that so we aren’t blindsided by suicide risk,” Lorna said.
There is no right thing to say… it’s about letting them know you’re there for them if they want to talk
“It’s vital we look out for each other, that people are more comfortable talking about these things and starting those conversations.
“Very often people are quite reluctant to do that, they might think that someone they know might be going through a difficult time and they are worried about them but often they may feel they don’t really know what to say.
“They might be worried about opening up that conversation, are they opening up a can of worms, are they going to make the person feel worse?
“So people are often apprehensive to dive in and speak to them about it.
“But actually we encourage that because you won’t make that person feel worse.”
Letting someone know they have somewhere to turn to, a shoulder to cry on, a person to vent at, someone who will listen can help lift a weight from their shoulders.
“When somebody is really struggling with life often a person noticing that they are going through a difficult time and reaching out to offer help and being prepared to listen to them, it can be an extremely powerful sense of release,” Lorna added.
“There is no right thing to say, necessarily, it’s just about having that conversation with someone and letting them know you’re there for them if they want to talk.
“We need to make these part of an everyday, normal conversation so there isn’t such a barrier when it comes to talking about mental health.
“Even if you just ask someone ‘are you OK?’, gives a simple yes or no answer.
“You could also say things like ‘I’ve noticed you’ve been going through a rough time lately, do you want to talk about it?’ – it’s just about letting them know you are there if they want to talk.”
The life-changing relief of talking to someone…
As the saying goes: A problem shared is a problem halved.
It might sound silly, especially when talking about something as devastating as suicide, but it really will help you if you are feeling down.
“It can be incredibly powerful to share your problems with somebody else, whether that is someone you know, a family member or friend or whether that’s talking to someone on a helpline or whether it’s going to see your GP and organising professional help,” Lorna said.
It can bring such a huge relief to talk to people and share what is going on.
“We add a lot of pressure to our own situations. If you imagine if you’ve suffered some life events that are causing great difficulty you are already under pressure and having to cope with that, but we add to that by making ourselves feel that we need to hold it all together and paint this picture that everything is OK.
“That just adds too much pressure to a situation that is already difficult to cope with and there is no need for people to do that.
“You are not alone, there is always somebody you can talk to who can help you.”