• Wellbeing

Let’s Talk: Suicide Prevention – how can we support?

  • By: paralleladmin
  • Posted on: 6th June 2024

Michael Smith
Client Engagement Executive

The suicide rate in England has reached its highest point in 25 years, casting a shadow over the lives of many. Every 90 minutes, someone in the UK succumbs to suicide, making it the leading cause of death for individuals aged 15-39 and men under 50. These statistics represent real people—our loved ones, colleagues and friends.

Earlier this month I caught up with Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) who shared with me that while the challenge is immense, there is hope. I put my questions to CALM to help explore why it’s critical to spotlight suicide prevention now, delving into common misconceptions, the role of workplaces, and actionable steps to support those in need. Together, we can save lives and offer hope to those struggling.

Why is it so important to highlight the prevention of suicide specifically during this time?

The tragic news is that the suicide rate in England is the highest it’s been in 25 years. Every 90 minutes someone dies by suicide in the UK and, right now, it’s the leading cause of death for 15-39 year olds, and men under 50. These aren’t just stats on a page, these are our mums and dads, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, partners and friends. The truth is, anyone can feel suicidal. 

We know that at CALM our services are more in demand than ever – we answer a call for help to our helpline every 59 seconds.  So it’s an issue that urgently needs to be addressed.

There is hope. Suicide is the most preventable cause of death in the UK, and CALM aims to help everyone struggling with life to find hope and a reason to stay.  

What are some of the common misconceptions about suicide and suicidal symptoms that you encounter in your position at CALM and are there specific behaviours or changes in routine that often indicate someone might be struggling?

The biggest misconception is probably that someone who’s suicidal will look or act in a certain way. The truth is suicidal doesn’t always look suicidal, and it can be hard – sometimes impossible – to notice that somebody is having suicidal thoughts.

That was why our ‘Last Photo’ campaign was so important – to show that people are so good at hiding how they’re really feeling. Sometimes there are obvious signs someone is struggling but often there aren’t. 

We know that it’s not always easy to know when someone is struggling, but here’s some stuff that might help – from ones you will probably already know, to subtler ones that might be harder to spot:

  • Ups and downs in their mood
  • Wanting to hang out less
  • Talking about suicide/wanting to die in a vague or joking way
  • Changes to their routine, like sleeping and eating
  • Seeming flat or low on energy
  • Neglecting themselves, showering less, or caring less about their personal appearance
  • Seeming reckless or making rash decisions
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Being more angry or irritable than usual
  • Giving away their possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family as if they won’t see them again

But often there are no obvious signs, and that means the best way to prevent suicide, is talking about suicide. By starting a conversation, we can all help stop suicide. By removing the stigma that surrounds suicide, we can make it an everyday conversation. We can make it easier for everyone to talk about how they’re feeling. Openly. Without judgement. Without shame.

That brings up another myth – that by asking someone if they’re suicidal it might put the thought into their head. If you’re worried they feel suicidal, ask them the question directly. That can be daunting but experience tells us that that asking about suicide won’t make things worse, won’t be putting thoughts in their head if it’s not there already or prompt them into acting on their thoughts – in fact, it will be a relief for the person that they can talk to someone. And it might save their life.

What duty do workplaces have in supporting their employees’ mental health? 

Workplaces can play a massive role in reducing the stigma around mental health and suicide. The key is creating a working environment that makes sure that everyone feels they’re able to hold up their hand and say “I’m struggling”. Staff must know who to turn to if they’re struggling and be given access to the tools and resources they need to help.

Creating an atmosphere to promote positive mental health impacts everything from their productivity to communication to their ability to maintain safety in the workplace

How can workplaces create an environment that encourages this open conversations about mental health without stigma?

It starts from the top and needs to be ingrained throughout the organisation – and make it clear that everyone struggles with their mental health sometimes. 

For too long, talking about mental health was a taboo subject (and there’s still a stigma around it). So help break that down – openly discuss and bring up issues related to workplace mental health such as stress and anxiety.  Talk about stress management, self-care and mental health in emails, meetings, presentations etc. If employees know this there’ll be a growing trust that if they do open up it won’t be perceived as a weakness or a negative – and know that they will be supported.

It’s vital that you educate managers in spotting the signs of mental health problems and encourage them to talk to their team. At CALM we help all our corporate partners and their staff implement this in their workplace.

What steps can colleagues take if they believe a colleague might be struggling with mental health issues? 

If you think someone could be struggling, let them know you’re there. Yeah, it might be awkward at first. But it could also be the most important conversation you and they ever have. Don’t worry about finding the perfect words to say – there is no right or wrong – just be there and let them know they have your support. 

The second point – if you feel they need more help – is to remember that you don’t have to have all the answers. If they’re struggling, let them know they can always speak to an expert and that help and support is available right now if they need it. Direct them to their GP, to call CALM or the Samaritans.

How can individuals and organisations get involved with your charity’s efforts during Men’s Health Week and beyond?

CALM is a movement and we want everyone to stand with us, united against suicide. There are loads of ways you can do that: take on a challenge, donate to help fund our life-saving services, volunteer to help at an event or even just share our messages on your social channels. Because the more people know about us and the more money we raise, the more people we can help and the more we can get society as a whole to talk about these issues and reduce the stigma around them.

The truth is our services only exist with the support of people and it costs £12.20 to answer a life-saving call to our helpline, so any support will make a massive difference.

How can we encourage more men to seek help and talk about their mental health issues?

We know that the awareness of the importance of opening up about your mental health is growing – but we also know there’s still a stigma around it.

That’s why we use music, sport, art and anything in between to get our message across and to help people find the strength to seek help. Because by having those ins and normalising talking about how we’re feeling we can take the awkwardness out of it and show the power of getting help when you need it. So keep having those chats, keep checking in on your mates and, bit by bit, you’ll notice how natural these conversations are.

And finally, if anyone reading this feels they need some extra support and someone to talk to, what can they do?

Just remember that CALM is always here when you need us.

We’ve got loads of tools and resources to help people find the support they need, including a life-saving helpline. It’s open every day, offering free, anonymous support to anyone affected by suicide or suicidal thoughts.

Our helpline team are there for people who can’t see a way forward, people who have lost someone to suicide, and people who are worried about friends or loved ones. Conversations are available over the phone, online and through WhatsApp.

We also have online support, available whenever and wherever you might need it. Our tools, tips and guides provide practical, non-clinical advice on issues ranging from anxiety to dealing with suicidal thoughts. These digital resources help people manage their mental wellbeing day to day, as well as provide information about what to do if you’re worried about someone.  

Suicide is preventable, and through open conversations, breaking down misconceptions, and creating supportive environments, we can make a difference. For more information and helpful resources visit www.thecalmzone.net/get-support

If you and your organisation are interested in partnering with CALM to enhance your colleagues’ mental health, and to help us in the fight against suicide, please get in touch with us at corporate@thecalmzone.net.