A few things I learnt at a recent meeting on Suicide Prevention:
Only 25-40% of people who end their own lives have been in contact with Mental Health services in the year before their death. So, it is everyone’s problem. It is important to educate everyone about recognising ‘at risk’ people; symptoms typically include dramatic withdrawal, reduced self-esteem, restlessness and agitation, severe hopelessness, acting recklessly, threatening to harm themselves and talking or writing about death.
A patient went to her GP with many of the above features and he said to her,” Why don’t you go shopping?” Not surprising at all. Is it? GPs are not trained adequately to deal with these situations.
Taking time to care and pay attention to everyone, no matter who we are or where we live and work, makes them feel valued. Each one of us can make a difference. It is our responsibility to:
- Give hope.
Very often the professionals will say that a particular suicide was ‘unavoidable”. Really? How do we know? Did we anticipate it? If yes, then did we do our best to prevent it? If not, then why not?
What is an acceptable suicide rate?
There needs to be a change in mindset. A cultural shift needs to take place. We need to believe that we can achieve a Zero Suicide Rate as some places in America have done.
As a society we need to:
- Talk openly about suicide as our problem.
- Remove access to means of suicide by tackling the hotspots such as multi-storey car parks.
- Improve access to Secondary (Specialist) care.
- Offer training to all professionals, especially GPs, police, airport and railway staff.
- Have a safety plan for patients with a known illness be it mental or physical, such as chronic pain and stroke, that might make them prone to suicide.
- Forget about the ‘risk assessment’ approach which is essentially a form of rationing. Do the same thing for everyone – have a safety plan.
Apparently each suicide costs the government £1.4 million. Police and coroners cost plus lost employment for the deceased person and the damaging impact on the people affected by the event. On an average 60 people are deeply affected by each suicide. So, even the treasury is interested in reducing the suicide rate.
Ask. Listen. Offer hope.