World Suicide Prevention Day – 10th September
World Suicide Prevention Day is hosted by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and this day is dedicated to raising awareness of suicide and to focus on the methods and interventions that have proven to help reduce the number of suicides across the world.
One really important point to raise here before we take a look at suicide in more detail, is regarding the correct terminology and use of language. Many people still refer to someone “committing suicide” even though suicide was decriminalised in 1961! The term “committed” implies an element of criminal behaviour and this has such detrimental effects on those people who fear the repercussions of speaking out and asking for help if they are feeling suicidal. This is why it is so important that we think about what language we use when referring to death by suicide. Phrases such as “the person took their own life,” or “the person died by suicide” alludes to a more autonomous decision rather than an act of criminal intent.
The statistics regarding suicide are quite a sobering read:
- In the UK, men are 3 times more likely to die by suicide than women. 
- In the Republic of Ireland, this figure rises to 4 times more likely. 
- One in 5 people think about suicide at some point in their life. 
- In 2019, in the UK, 6524 people took their own life. 
- Men aged between 45-49 and women aged between 50-54 have the highest suicide rates. 
There are many factors that contribute to someone taking their own life and these could be a singular reason or a combination of many. Factors include:
- Unemployment and financial concerns
- Physical health conditions
- Mental health conditions
- Alcohol or drug dependency
Working with clients who feel suicidal or who have suicidal ideations
This is a subject that can seem overwhelming for some therapists and it may be tempting to shy away from talking about it with a client, for fear of making it happen. This is not the case. Don’t fear talking about it, be frank and ask questions to determine how your client is feeling. It’s important in the first instance to determine whether your client has active or passive suicidal ideation. Active means they keep thinking about dying and have made a plan to make this happen. Passive means they have the thoughts about dying but haven’t made a plan.
Each therapist will have their own approach to working with clients experiencing suicidal thoughts and will have their own procedures to follow if there is immediate risk of harm to the client, by the client. This will normally mean involving outside agencies such as the Police, Crisis Team or the client’s GP. If there is no immediate risk to the client but the suicidal ideations are present, then writing a safety plan with the client is a good way of helping them to safeguard themselves and also to help bring into perspective, the support that they have around them. Therapist Aid has a useful safety plan sheet that can be used with clients. The Stay Alive app is also a great resource that clients can use in order to help manage their thoughts and put a safety plan in place. If you are working with young clients who are experiencing suicidal thoughts, then Papyrus have a great safety plan aimed at the younger generation.
Declan Henry, a highly experienced mental health social worker, author and a very good friend of mine has produced a booklet – “Suicide – Reasons to Live” to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 and is offering it as a free download from his website which can be found here. I highly recommend taking the time to read this insightful booklet.
I hope this blog has been useful and has given you some resources that you could use if necessary.
NPRC Editorial & Research Specialist
 Samaritans (2019) ‘Suicide facts and figures,’ available online at https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/suicide-facts-and-figures/
 Mental Health Foundation (2021) ‘Suicide,’ available online at https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/suicide