Today is always the best day to start a conversation with a colleague, friend or loved one if you’re concerned they are at risk of suicide.
World Suicide Prevention Day is on 10th September 2021. We’re providing practical tips to help you start a conversation that could save a life.
Suicide statistics in the UK
In the UK in 2019, 6,524 people took their own lives. In England and Wales, that amounted to 11 deaths per 100,000 people.
Statistically, men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide, although women are more likely to report suicidal thoughts. The highest rates of suicide by gender are for men aged 45 – 49 (25.5 per 100,000) and women aged 50 – 54 (7.4 per 100,000).
Suicide rates had been dropping across the UK, but increased in recent years. In 2018, deaths from suicide went up 10.9% from the previous year.
Within specific groups, the suicide rate has gone up dramatically. In England and Wales, the rate for females under 25 increased by 93.8% since 2012, to its highest level in 2019.
Research from charity Stonewall shows that the LGBTIQ+ community is disproportionately affected by suicidal thoughts:
- one in eight LGBTIQ+ people aged 18-24 had attempted to end their life.
- almost half of trans people had thought about taking their life.
Statistics by occupation
Suicide statistics are not spread equally across all professions and occupations. Occupations that are particularly impacted are:
- construction industry
- care professions
- primary school teachers
- women working in culture, media and sport
Glasgow Caledonian University found that, in 2019, 29 construction workers per 100,000 took their own lives. Construction industry workers are three times more likely to take their own life than workers in other sectors. The issue was found to be most acute for construction’s unskilled and blue-collar workers, where the suicide rate was just over 73 per 100,000 in 2019.
2017 analysis by the Office for National Statistics shows that amongst women, the risk of suicide was 23 per cent higher for nurses and 42 per cent higher for primary school teachers compared to the national average. For women working in culture, media and sport, the figure went up to 69 per cent.
Care workers of both genders face a suicide risk that is almost twice the national average.
The impact of COVID
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, many mental health charities expressed concern about the impact on suicide rates and mental health. Provisional suicide rates for 2020 in England have so far shown no evidence of an increase. Data from service providers has shown only a modest increase in individuals seeking help.
Concern remains about the longer term impacts of the COVID crisis. The pandemic has disproportionately affected the most vulnerable people in society and has exacerbated factors already known to be related to suicide. During previous recessions, suicide rates rose. Those hardest hit by economic downturn are also those at greatest risk of suicide. A main group of concern during economic downturn is middle aged men.
Start the Conversation and Olly’s Future – experts in suicide prevention and awareness training
Olly’s Future – why it started, what it does
Ann Feloy from Worthing set up Olly’s Future shortly after her son Oliver tragically took his own life on February 14th, 2017, less than six months after he had graduated from University College London (UCL) with a first class Honours degree in History. Along with some of his closest friends, Ann established the charity to prevent suicide, particularly in young people. It works with universities and medical schools across the country, NHS Trusts, local authorities and other charities and organisations.
As well as delivering suicide prevention training, Olly’s Future has two flagship initiatives:
- Dr SAMS (Suicide Awareness in Medical Students)
- Practise Hope to improve the way 10-25 year olds are supported by their local GP practices
Ann said: “All the work we do is in memory of my wonderful son. I feel it is vital to equip people with the skills I wish I’d had to help my son when he needed it most.”
In 2019, she teamed up with Rose Allett from Start the Conversation to develop and deliver ‘Talking about Suicide – Ten Tools’. This is a 90 minute online training which has been delivered to people all round the world since the first Covid19 lockdown.
About Start the Conversation
Rose Allett is the founder of Start the Conversation, dedicated to suicide prevention through education:
“As a counsellor (with young people and survivors of domestic abuse) and a youth mental health project manager, self-harm and suicide thoughts became part of my daily conversations. Along with my own personal experiences, I realised the desperate need for more education and less fear in talking around these subjects. I began to teach suicide prevention skills in 2015 and quickly found myself teaching doctors, counsellors, teachers, parents, emergency services crews, military veterans, helpline volunteers and more, across the UK and Australia. I founded Start the Conversation in 2018 to focus on this work, and now deliver standard and bespoke training courses, in person and online.”
These fantastic organisations offer a wide variety of trainings via Elevate, including:
- Myths About Suicide webinar (60 minutes)
- TAS10 / Talking about Suicide: Ten Tools (90 minutes)
- SFAL / Suicide First Aid Lite (half day)
- SFA USI / Suicide First Aid: Understanding Suicide Interventions (one day)
- ASIST / Applied Suicide Prevention Skills Training (two days)
Get in touch to schedule one of these sessions for your organisation and enable a conversation that saves someone’s life.
Suicide awareness in the workplace – practical tips
It is hard to see a colleague going through mental health challenges, but all of us can provide support. If your workplace has a mental health first aider, reach out to them for resources and guidance. But remember the most important thing is to speak to your colleague about your concerns.
We asked Rose at Start the Conversation for her insight:
What you can do – if you are worried about someone, know that starting a conversation is always the right thing to do – you won’t make things worse.
Where to start – share what you’ve noticed and that you’re worried about them – don’t worry about using the ‘right’ language! Be real, be you.
Rose’s three top tips are:
- Get curious – notice when your colleagues behave differently or are absent from work, and tell them what you’ve noticed (with concern and without judgement). Check in with the ‘strong’ people too – everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about.
- Naming the ‘elephant in the room’. Saying the word ‘suicide’ won’t put the idea in a person’s head. Instead, it will likely bring relief, and give permission to that person to start talking about what’s on their mind.
- Empower yourself with basic skills training, including the best way to ask someone if they are thinking of suicide. The 90 minute Talking About Suicide session (TAS10) is a great place to start – a donation-based monthly session on the first Tuesday of every month http://talkingaboutsuicide.eventbrite.com
Suicide awareness within peer or family groups
It can sometimes be harder to talk to our friends or family about suicide than our colleagues. We might feel too close to them, or it feels too personal or painful; we don’t want to believe someone close to us could be suffering or feeling like they can’t cope. Know that, just as is the case in a workplace, starting a conversation about suicide with someone we’re worried about is always the safest thing we can do for that person.
Support resources: https://www.starttheconversation.uk/get-help
- Samaritans (Available 24 hours): call 116 123, text SHOUT to 85258 or email email@example.com
- NHS (available 24 hours): call NHS 111 or 999 if you are worried you or someone else is in danger, you can also walk in to any A&E and tell them you are having suicidal thoughts
- CALM (5pm-midnight, 7 days a week): call 0800 58 58 58
- Stay Alive is an excellent collection of local and national resources
- MIND has articles and contact information for support
World Suicide Prevention Day – 10th September 2021
Today is the best day to reach out to a friend or colleague in crisis. But as World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 comes around, we can all elevate the conversation within our own communities to prevent suicide.
Elevate has keynote speakers for World Suicide Prevention Day, to assist employees across your company in starting the difficult conversations that might help save a life.
Get in touch to find out more.