• The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide. This is a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will double to one every 20 seconds (WHO, 2019).

    In the US, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 and the 10th leading cause of death over all (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017). When it comes to military forces the data is even more frightening: every day 20 US Veterans die by committing suicide (US Department of Veterans Affairs, 2019).

    Suicide has been romanticised by literature and numerous are the suicides among writers and poets.

    Virginia Woolf struggled with mental health all her life and attempted suicide several times, until she finally succeeded drowning herself at the age of 59. Ernest Hemingway survived pretty much everything: World War I, the Spanish Civil War, multiple plane crashes, skin cancer, malaria, pneumonia and hepatitis, but didn’t survive his depression. Primo Levi – writer and chemist and Auschwitz survivor, took his own life some 40 years after surviving those wartime atrocities.

    With suicide, we are usually obsessed with asking why. Why did s/he, who seemed perfectly normal, with a regular life and regular job, decide to take their own life? Suicide notes aren’t usually much help.

    There’s never a singular reason leading to suicide. Childhood trauma, painful experiences, untreated mental disorders are all elements that can build up in the subconscious and unconscious until at some point the decision becomes only one.

    By that point suicide is often the only choice a person feels they have. Perhaps they feel it would be better for everyone. Or they feel so bad about themselves that non-existence is the only option.

    But rather than obsessing with the reasons why people consider and commit suicide, what we might rather do is provide people another choice, an alternative. Certainly, prevention is the most important aspect we should consider regarding suicide.

    If you know someone who suffers from depression or any other mental disorder, encourage them to seek help. Gently. Here you’ll find my short list of DO’s and DON’Ts.

  • DO’s

    1. Be aware and notice the warning signs. If suddenly a person is often talking about death, changing their will or making sure their families and friends are happy and settled, they might be planning suicide.
    2. Get involved, be available, ask direct questions.
    3. Be open to listen, without judgement and comment. Nobody needs a lecture.
    4. Be careful how you refer to suicide and mental health issues. We never actually know what people are going through.
    5. Seek help from professionals: you’re not in this alone and you don’t have responsibility to save anyone.
  • DON’Ts

    And if someone confesses they’re thinking about suicide,

    1. Don’t ask why: because almost certainly you wouldn’t understand the answer
    2. Don’t act shocked: it’s not about you and your emotions
    3. Don’t force them to seek help: propose the option gently
    4. Don’t carry the burden of the responsibility alone: seek professional help
    5. Don’t dare them to do it: just because they told you, it doesn’t mean they’re just seeking attention
  • If a loved one commits suicide, don’t feel guilty. You couldn’t have done anything to keep them alive, otherwise they still would be.

    If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, take a deep breath, and seek help. Call 5 of your favourite people and perhaps your doctor. Don’t be alone. Your life matters.

    Have a great day,