A campaign in Hertfordshire is aiming to improve support for people most at risk of suicide, as well as helping to raise awareness of how to spot the signs of potential suicide and encourage people to talk to each other openly about it.
The campaign, ‘Spot the Signs and Save a Life’ is a collaboration between Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT), Hertfordshire Mind Network, local GP surgeries and other services.
Suicide is a bigger killer than road traffic accidents and homicides put together. Data suggests one in five people will experience suicidal thoughts at some point in their life, and in a typical 2-week period one person in every 20 consider suicide. An estimated 6,000 people take their own lives in the UK every year – 80% of whom are men. Each year in Hertfordshire 285,000 people experience a mental health problem.
Key warning signs of someone considering suicide could include:
• Talking about “feeling hopeless” and feeling “life is not worth living”
• Saying “my friends and family would be better off without me”
• Giving away prized possessions, and saying goodbye to loved ones
• A sudden and seemingly full recovery after a period of severe depression.
The campaign website (www.hpft.nhs.uk/spot-the-signs) has more information on spotting the signs of suicide risk and depression, what to do when you or someone you know is in need of urgent help, and details of local resources.
Evidence shows that talking with family, friends, GPs or mental health specialists about thoughts of suicide is a pathway to getting help, and doesn’t lead to acting on these thoughts.
Ms W of Hatfield shared her experiences of asking about suicide: “A member of my family has bouts of depression, and I have spent the last 10 years worrying privately about whether he would take his own life. I finally plucked up the courage to ask ‘Do you ever feel suicidal when you’re feeling low?’
“He said: ‘No - the best way to help me when I’m depressed is to send me a text saying ‘Hope you’re OK’.’ He promised to tell me if he did ever have these thoughts and we would work through it together. Such a weight was lifted by asking this one question, and I would never have asked if it wasn’t for this campaign.”
HPFT recommends that people who need urgent professional help can:
• Call the Samaritans: 08457 909090
• Call the SANE helpline: 0300 304 7000 between 6.00pm – 11.00pm
• Go to their nearest A&E department
• Call HPFT’s Single Point of Access: 0300 777 0707 between 8.00am – 7.00pm.