Help & Advice
Introduction - let’s end the stigma
Suicide is the biggest killer of both males and females under 35 and the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, and yet people still feel unable to speak openly about it. This is known as stigma. Stigma gets in the way of important conversations all the time - suicide, bipolar disorder, psychosis and many other mental health issues are still stigmatised, just the same as redundancy, divorce single parenting and even cancer used to be.
In 2016 there were 5,965 deaths registered as suicide in the UK and many more people than that attempted to take their own life. In addition to our work reducing suicide and increasing the number of suicide aware member professionals and members of the public, The OLLIE Foundation does what it can to challenge the myths and stigma that still surround suicide.
For instance, although suicide has not been a crime in England and Wales since 1961, many people still think it is. The term ‘committed suicide’ is no longer considered an acceptable term as it harps back to this time and infers that a person is ‘committing a crime’. The most appropriate alternative to use is ‘died by suicide.’ Other options and guidance on this can be found in The Mental Health Media Charter here.
Some people choose to bottle up their feelings as it can seem easier than trying to articulate something that often feels hard to describe. Not talking about our worries and feelings can of course have the reverse effect. In addition, it can make it very hard for those that love and care about that person to know when something is wrong, and, in the worst-case scenario, prevents them from being able to offer support in a crisis.
Whilst it might be a difficult question to ask and an uncomfortable conversation that follows, it is so important that if you truly are concerned about someone’s wellbeing that you are confident enough to ask the direct question; “Have you had thoughts about suicide?”. By being direct, you are showing the other person that you are willing and able to have that conversation. Our training ensures you are confident in how to support them, should they say ‘yes.’
At OLLIE, we know that suicide has a terrible impact on families and communities and can cast a long shadow across time and space. That’s why we are on a mission to create suicide aware communities, filled with people willing, able and confident to not only talk openly about suicide, but able to create safe plans with those who may be vulnerable and signpost people to the support they need. Everyone aged 16 and above can play their part and help create suicide aware communities. You can do this by coming to one of our training courses. You can find out more about our training here.
Frames of reference
A question that is often asked is “How old should a child be before I talk to them about suicide?”. Every child is unique, and their maturity levels are individual to them so there is no one size fits all. However, if a child has explicitly been exposed to a suicide previously then, it’s really important someone sits down with them to talk about it. As children our understanding of the world is based on our frames of reference. If children are exposed to suicide but no one discusses the topic with them, they will generate their own frames of reference which aren’t necessarily the references we want them to create.
For example, a local resident was first exposed to suicide at 7 when her half brother attempted suicide in their house. As she was 7 no one spoke explicitly to her about suicide, so she generated her own frames of reference. These were that her brother had lots of problems, that he didn’t know how to solve them, and that suicide was the solution. Therefore, she resulted in attempting suicide multiple times herself because of the frames of reference she’d built around suicide. This is why it’s so important to discuss suicide openly when there has been prior exposure so that the frames of reference include suicide as one of many possible solutions and that there are other, better choices, which have less permanent consequences.
For the majority of people thinking about suicide, it is a very confusing, lonely and exhausting time. The chances are, there is a part of you that really wants to live, it’s just you don’t know how to do so with the problems you face.
Talking about suicide is not something any of us expect to do and if can feel scary. If you are concerned about someone, either because of their behaviour, actions or words, or perhaps your gut instinct tells you something is wrong.
How do I get help?
Talking it through can actually help you to clarify those thoughts and feelings and speaking with someone who is trained in counselling or supporting people with their emotions, means you will be given the space to really think through what it is you are feeling and what you can do to move forward.
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