One of the biggest fears around suicide is our fear of asking about it.
When I first started running my own company working in the field of suicide prevention, my youngest child would find it hard to get his head around what I did. After seeing “The Incredibles” and the scene where Mr. Incredible saves a mans’ life from jumping off a tower block, he thought that’s what I did. It was hard for me to tell him the truth, after-all, every Dad wants to be a super-hero; or at least a rocket scientist. But unfortunately I am neither.
Late 2015, I found myself sitting unexpectedly on the BBC Breakfast Red Sofa opposite Naga Munchetty. I had been called up last minute.com to sit alongside a young Dublin chap named Jamie Harrington who at the age of 15 walked over to a man standing precariously close to the edge of a bridge and asked him “Are you O.K?” The conversation between Jamie and the man led to that man stepping back from the bridge and being alive today.
When I talked about the importance of talking to people who may have suicidal thoughts, Naga said “but you’re a specialist?” – this is even in spite of the very fact that the young man sitting next to me that morning, who was not a “specialist” had, just through the means of a conversation saved a mans’ life.
Day in, day out I engage with articles, reports, reviews, research and all manner of suicide related social media messages in a range of formats to keep myself up to speed with what is happening in the world of suicide prevention – after all, it’s my job. But preventing suicide is not something that requires a “specialist” knowledge. It is not rocket science and should never be touted as such. Neither is it just something that sits squarely in the domain of the academic world nor the clinical world.
Effective suicide prevention should not view the individual as the problem. But there is something about society and societies perceived fear of the challenge of suicide. If we are going to point the finger of blame, we maybe need to consider pointing the finger at ourselves first.
So, these are the “facts” as I see it:
1) Suicidal thought is human. It is not a direct result of mental illness but is certainly a result of crisis – A crisis so extreme for the individual with suicidal thoughts that they at that moment may not be able to see any other option. Obviously, you could argue that having suicidal thoughts means that their mental health is not good but many people with a mental illness do not attempt suicide and many people without a diagnosed mental health problem…DO.
2) Conversation is key and fear of that conversation is the barrier – We need to ask people if they are O.K. We also need to ask people if they are thinking of ending their life. If we don’t ask the question and don’t have the conversation, then we are in effect doing nothing to reduce the likely-hood of a suicide being completed.
3) Be straight up – Skirting around the edges of the possibility of suicide in a fluffy and non-direct way will mean that most people with thoughts of suicide will not open up. They will instead see you as playing no role in their final decision around suicide – therefore, we need to say it as we see it. We need to be direct and get to the point, after all a life may be at risk here.
4) Without a conversation about suicide many people will die by suicide. With the conversation, some people will still die by suicide. But at least you had the conversation. At the end of the day, there will always be suicide, however, we need to present people with opportunity to find hope in living.
5) You are not there to fix them. Many people with thoughts of suicide, given the time, the space and a non-judgmental opportunity for open dialogue will find their own solutions in keeping themselves safe. They just need a supportive hand to make their solutions come to fruition.
6) Suicide is everyone’s responsibility – For a second, forget all the statistics about people with suicidal thoughts and the likely-hood of them being in touch with mental health services, criminal justice, Doctors etc…. Just hold onto this statistic – 100% of all people that take their own life lived in a community. Therefore…it’s down to all of us. Simple.
7) We are not super-heroes, nor rocket scientists – and nor do we need to be.
If you are concerned about somebody or you are struggling and need someone to talk to then contact Samaritans – Telephone: 116123
Written by Terry Rigby (2016)
Company Director – Forward For Life
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Since July 2018, Forward For Life and Common Unity have delivered SCHEMA as part of the Birmingham and Solihull CCG NHS commissioned mental health training, as in-house training for the Housing Sector (Trident Reach) and across Coventry and Warwickshire through the Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Partnership Trust as part of their Wave 1 STP for Suicide Prevention to over 400 delegates with an overall average rating of 9.5 out of 10.
SCHEMA is a one day suicide prevention course that supports professionals and community members in effectively helping people with suicidal thoughts.
This course has been being designed and developed by experienced facilitators and practitioners in the fields of suicide prevention, mental health and well-being.
- To provide delegates with knowledge around suicide and the skills to support an individual who may be thinking of taking their own life.
- Enable participants to learn how to develop a collaborative helping relationship focused on life options for the individual at risk.
- To equip participants with practical tools and a framework for understanding the needs of a person at risk along with a Life Plan Model that features risk assessment and future life planning approaches.
- Provide a safe environment for practice to build confidence and skills.
Learning aspirations for delegates
- Spot the signals of possible suicidal ideation
- Ask the right questions
- Explore with empathy
- Assess risk level and forward plan
- Enable short term support and appropriate signposting
- Learn the skills that could save a life
The delegates have hailed from a range of professions and a myriad of backgrounds from both the public and private sectors.
More specifically, this included the Local Authority, Social Work representatives, the Mental Health Trusts, Mental Health charities, Young People’s services, Carers Support services, Advocacy services, Public Health teams, Private and retail sector (including IBM, McDonalds, National Express and the construction sector), Homeless Support, the Education Sector, Housing and Floating Support, Autism support services, Work programme representatives, Substance Misuse Services, Later-Life Support services, Domestic Violence Support services, Emergency services, Disability Support Services and many more.
Author: Terry Rigby, Forward For Life Company Director
The ManMade programme successfully supports men to be able to talk more openly about their emotions, to build their confidence and self-esteem, to know where to go for help and to support others in the community. This is achieved through an eight-week workshop programme which includes peer discussion, information sharing and self-reflection on a range of health and wellbeing topics, underpinned by person centered facilitation approaches.
Unemployment and Suicide
Between 2000 and 2011, one in five of an estimated 233,000 annual suicides globally were linked to unemployment. An international study of the impact of recession and unemployment on suicide was published in 2015 concluding suicides associated with unemployment totaled about 45,000 annually, making up about 20% of all suicides. It is also important to note though that this study also showed that unemployment was a stronger factor for suicidal ideation than recession itself meaning that even in times of relative prosperity, the experience of unemployment has devastating effects on the individual experiencing job loss which may increase the risk of suicide through mechanisms such as an increased risk of depression, financial strain and reduced affordability of mental health care. This study also highlights how employment is not always a precursor to improved wellbeing and reduced likelihood of suicidal behaviour in highlighting that falling income, zero hour contracts, job insecurity and debt can often be associated with suicide.
Author: Tessa Hovarth, Renaisi
This report presents findings of an evaluation of The ManMade Family
programme. This was delivered in Sandwell in 2016. ManMade is an eight week programme designed to support and empower unemployed men to take care of their own mental health and wellbeing. It was developed by Forward for Life and Common Unity in response to high levels of poor male mental health and suicide, associated with gender identity.
The MandMade Family programme successfully supported men to be able to talk more openly about their emotions, to build their confidence and self-esteem, to know where to go for help and to support others in the community.
The MM Family Approach
This programme takes a targeted approach with unemployed men aged 20-60. It looks to improve their resilience and coping skills, reduce health risk behaviours, improve their mental health and reduce risk factors for mental illness.
The approach is based on the New Economics Foundation’s Five Ways to
Well-being. The NEF suggest that mental health needs and vulnerabilities to suicidal ideation are best addressed via a holistic approach which includes internal resilience tools, self-care skills and knowledge of services.
For more information about ManMade or any of the services delivered through Forward For Life, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 07585776800 or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: T Rigby/Forward For Life
The ManMade Dudley Programme was initially established in February 2015 as a pilot programme on behalf of Dudley Public Health. It was set up to engages unemployed men from the area to best support them emotionally and practically in taking best care of their own mental health and well-being.
This evaluation looked to cover all the aspects of ManMade, both its successes and challenges, in the hope that firstly, the learning from the programme can be cascaded to best realise a greater understanding of the complexities of men as well as secondly, providing a knowledge platform where this programme or future off-shot programmes be developed further for the benefit of the wider cohort.
A middle aged man thing. Or is it that straight-forward?
We often hear the statement that suicide is most likely to be undertaken by men in their middle age. But what is it about middle aged men? Has it always been this age group? Is it gender related or does society have a hand in this?
Recent data supplied from the Office of National Statistics provides a historical understanding of suicide in respect to men, women and the so called “Generation X” phenomenon.
This article from our Company Director takes a personal look into this phenomenon in a bid to highlight the impact of society on our day to day life experience.
Author: Terry Rigby
Published September 2019