September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) . Not the cheeriest subject to be writing about, but nonetheless it references one of the most crucial issues facing the country and one which we must talk about to break the taboo.
The statistics are becoming as familiar as they are shocking.
Men between the ages of 20 and 49 are more likely to die of suicide than any other means.
Across Britain Men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives and in Derbyshire, it’s even worse, with 85% of suicides being men.
One in every 15 of us has attempted suicide at one time or another.
And yet, despite it being an increasingly common event, we talk about suicide too little.
WSPD aims to break that taboo, and here in Derbyshire I am supporting an innovative partnership between organisations including the NHS, Derbyshire County Council, local charities and support groups to ‘Work Together to Prevent Suicides’.
The suicide prevention work includes stalls that our local professional and semi-professional Football clubs to ensure that supporters are made aware of the support available for people who are considering suicide or self-harm, or even others who are feeling low and wouldn’t normally talk about their feelings.
I am pleased to see that different organisations are working together to raise awareness about suicide prevention. I also met with East Midlands Trains to hear about their work reducing suicides on the railways. They have prevented 18 people from taking their own lives on the Railways at Chesterfield station alone in the last 20 months, which shows how commonplace this is.
Often a friendly word or enquiry can be the support someone who is feeling very low can need, but we should all take responsibility for looking out for our friends and colleagues.
Alongside what we can do and the work of charities, people will rightly question what our health services are doing. 75% of people who die by suicide are not known to mental health services. But amongst those who are waiting times are dangerously long and the constant persecution of many people suffering with disabilities or mental health by our welfare system can push people into crisis too often.
In my office we have had to refer people for crisis support on many occasions, but schools, GPs, Job Centres, churches and housing de3partments all need training to look out for the signs that someone may be feeling suicidal and intervene before its too late.
The message that WSPD sends is that anyone who is feeling suicidal should consider:
speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust
call the Samaritans 24-hour support service on 116 123
go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department and tell the staff how you are feeling
contact NHS 111
make an urgent appointment to see your GP
Whilst this is not the most uplifting subject, it is a crucial one, and the message from WSPD is that if we all look out for each other we can provide that crucial support so that people at their lowest ebb can live to smile again.