World Suicide Prevention Day: What Can We Do to Help?

Carolyn Barber of Portsmouth’s Good Mental Health Cooperative, and local researcher and social entrepreneur, reflects on last week’s World Suicide Prevention Day and provides information and resources to help anyone who wants to get more involved in working to support mental health and prevent suicide.

The 10th September was World Suicide Prevention Day. This is an opportunity for people and organisations across the globe to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention. So I’m going to use this opportunity to share some information about the rate of suicide and self harm, and also signpost you to some recommended online training to help people respond in situations where they are really concerned about someone else’s thoughts or intentions.

The most recent report produced by the Samaritans in 2019 shows a worrying increase in suicide rates across the UK. In 2018, 6,507 people took their own lives, of which 75% were male and 25% female. This was an overall increase of 10.9%, the highest annual rise since 2013.

In the UK, suicide rates among young people have been increasing in recent years, and the suicide rate for young females is now at its highest rate on record.

This is what the Samaritans report says about why young people take their own lives:

Suicide is complex and is rarely caused by one thing. It usually follows a combination of adverse childhood experiences, stressors in early life and recent events. Research shows that bereavement, abuse, neglect, self-harm, mental or physical ill health, and experiencing academic pressures are just some of the common risk factors for suicide among young people. Of course, though, most young people will experience these stresses and not go on to take their own lives.

  • Workplace, housing and financial problems were more common for 20-24 year-olds
  • Academic pressures and bullying were found to be more common before suicide in young people under 20
  • Suicide-related internet use was found in 26% of deaths in under 20s and 13% of deaths in 20-24 year-olds

A major concern also highlighted by the Samaritans report is the increase in self-harm among young people over the last 15 years. There are many different definitions of self-harm but the Samaritans define it as ‘any deliberate act of self-poisoning or self-injury without suicidal intent.’

Self-harm is a sign that someone is experiencing serious emotional distress and, while most people who self-harm do not go on to take their own life, it is identified as a strong risk factor for future suicide attempts.

The Zero Suicide Alliance provide a range of awareness training options which give a better understanding of the signs to look out for and the skills required to approach someone who is struggling, whether that be through social isolation or suicidal thoughts. These start with brief training sessions which aim to give you the skills and confidence to help someone who may be having suicidal thoughts. The focus is on breaking the stigma and encouraging open conversations.

We’ve been hard at work updating the Resources section of the Good Mental Health Coop website – these are resources you can use to build your mental and emotional resilience during these testing times. The Resources are divided under 4 themes – Meet, Relax, Learn, Create – please take some time to browse and check them out. You can find information about local support and services available if you’re feeling emotionally or psychologically distressed.

The Good Mental Health Coop is also running an online festival through September and October – Connections in Creativity – organised by Sarah Haskett of Creative Mental Health to showcase creative talent and raise funds for the Good Mental Health Cooperative.


This article was originally published as a newsletter. Check out the Good Mental Health Coop website, where you can sign up to receive Carolyn’s weekly mental health updates by email, and find out more about the amazing work the Coop do. You can also follow the Coop on Twitter and Facebook, and you can read all of Carolyn’s articles for S&C here.

Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay.

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