COLUMN: It’s time to talk about suicide

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If you ask most people what they feel the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 is within the UK, they will more than likely answer with a biological illness such as cancer, heart attacks or even road traffic accidents…and they would be wrong.

The biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK is suicide, and that statistic is showing no signs of improvement.

Whilst women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are most likely to succeed, which leaves us with a staggering statistic (published in September 2016) that 76 per cent of lives lost to suicide in the UK are men.

It would be remiss of me to become immersed in the statistics and negate the bigger picture here.

Essentially it is our responsibility to promote the message that it is not weak to have feelings of despair, there are organisations and therapists who can offer support. Also that those feelings don’t have to be long term, that people can and do recover and go on to lead rich fulfilling lives and that we can address and beat the root causes.

But before this we have the darkness, the feelings of helplessness, the almost impossible task of trying to rationalise what we are experiencing, the despondency, the inability to see any light at the end of the tunnel. As a therapist I have worked with both sides.

I have worked with individuals who have been feeling that despair and have been at that lowest point where the only option feels like the most drastic and irreversible action.

And I want to tell you that I have helped people to help themselves through it and seen them come out of the other side. You don’t have to be a trained professional to offer that support. Sometimes just somebody who cares, who is happy to listen and be there is enough. Of course you can always seek professional help in conjunction with this.

I have also worked with the other side and helped people to deal with the effects of bereavement after losing somebody in this manner. The unanswerable questions, the feelings of remorse or even self-reproach, the rejection or abandonment which sometimes accompanies this, the anger and sorrow and feelings of what is seen as unbearable sadness and pain which appears like it will never subside.

There exists a conception that it’s harder for those who are left behind. I feel this oversimplifies what is a very complex topic and would invite you to consider how much pain and suffering an individual must be experiencing to feel this is the only viable option. The finality and reality of the situation for an individual, I cannot even begin to conceptualise.

We all have an obligation to be more vigilant. If you start to notice changes in behaviour, personal appearance or a general withdrawal, don’t be afraid to ask somebody how they are feeling and don’t ever be afraid of their response. There are professionals out there who can support, but also you as friends/family members or even colleagues can still play an important role.

And for those who may be facing emotional challenges, remember it’s a sign of strength to ask for help and explore the options with another. You don’t have to accept the way you are feeling and many people can and do get better.

At the time of writing this, my wife had just said goodbye to one of her students, aged just 18. My sincerest condolences go out to the family, friends and all who had their lives touched by Dominic. I cannot even begin to imagine how you are all feeling and I offer my heartfelt sympathy to you all.

In loving memory of Dominic Wass.