COLUMN: Suicide prevention is a matter for us all

It has recently been World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10).

I do wonder however, whether something as severe as suicide should only have one day attached to it to raise awareness.

The topic is dark and deeply distressing for most of us, but how much this must amplify for those directly affected, I cannot even begin to imagine. I have written about suicide previously. However, whilst previous articles focused on appealing to those who may be feeling despair to reach out for support, this one will focus more on the important role that those surrounding play.

Recently an individual took their own life by jumping off a motorway bridge near my home town in Yorkshire. Of course, the initial reaction is one of great sadness that someone could feel such despair, that they felt this was their only way out. The sadness then became an overwhelming sense of sympathy for the family and all those affected by this person’s death.

I have worked with suicide and seen first-hand the effect it can have on families. What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was the anger I would be consumed by after reading some of the comments on the website of the newspaper. These comments accused the person of being selfish and cowardly. Sadly, some people feel that the world, and the people immediately around them, would be a better place if they were no longer there.

Regardless of our own perspective, the argument is, in the eyes of the individual, this is actually a selfless act because they feel they are doing something which will be of benefit to others.

Essentially, we can never truly understand how someone is feeling or have any real concept of the dominant thoughts which may be influencing them. I sometimes hear people say that if somebody truly wants to take their own life, then they will do so and there is nothing that can be done. There will be occasions when this may be true, but I would invite you to consider the events which have led up to that thought process. Should you do so, you will see that numerous people may well have played their part.

So effectively, that nickname which you thought was mere banter; that picture you circulated which was just a bit of fun; that prank you pulled to amuse the office; those parties which you constantly excluded them from; that lunch you frequently hid or even the times you saw all of the aforementioned and said/did nothing, yes, all those things may well be contributory factors.

I genuinely believe that if we knew the precise reasons for someone taking their own life and the part we had directly or indirectly played in that, it would have a profound effect on all of us. Sadly, on the vast majority of occasions we do not become aware of this until it is too late.

Prevention therefore, is something we all have an obligation to take seriously. We all need to give greater consideration to our words and actions because ultimately it’s not about intent, it’s about interpretation.

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