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
Get in touch:
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.
LITA (Life is the AIM) was developed by Forward For Life and Common Unity with the recognition that in today’s uncertain times there is an ever pressing need to provide people with gatekeeper skills training in suicide prevention through an online platform.
Directed at organisations and communities, LITA is a short and practical 2.5 hour online introduction to supporting people with thoughts of suicide to stay alive.
What do we mean by gatekeeper training?
In the field of suicide prevention, the term gatekeeper refers to individuals in a community who have face-to-face contact with community members regularly.
They may be trained to identify persons at risk of suicide and refer them to treatment or supporting services as appropriate.
The Learning Objectives of LITA
- Understand the impact of suicide and the stigma surrounding suicide
- Gain a knowledge of the common myths and misconceptions
- Have a good base line knowledge of how to identify those at risk
- Skills gained in open and direct dialogue
- Recognise and feel able to ask the question of suicide.
- Understand the value of listening and open and direct dialogue
- Direct those at risk to appropriate support opportunities
- Knowledge of local and national support resources
- Confidence increase in supporting a person who may be at risk of suicide
- Knowledge of importance of self-care/personal support opportunities.
Future opportunities for accessing the on-line LITA training will be highlighted in the Training Diary section of this website.
If you are thinking about LITA training being delivered to your organisation then don’t hesitate to contact us.
Suicide is a major issue and it’s increasing – In England it is a sad fact that every 2 hours a person dies by their own hand. ASIST suicide prevention training is one way of supporting communities to be suicide safer.
In 2019, over 6,000 suicides were across the UK. Although adults in middle- and late-middle age have the highest suicide rate, suicide occurs in people of all ages, including children and when someone takes their own life, the effect on the family, friends, the local community and the wider community is devastating – An immeasurable impact.
ASIST: suicide first aid
ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is a two day, skills building workshop that prepares caregivers of all kinds to provide suicide first aid interventions. Professionals, Volunteers and informal helpers all need to know how to help persons with thoughts of suicide in ways that increase their suicide safety.
As an ASIST-trained first aid intervention Caregiver, you will be better able to:
Identify people who have thoughts of suicide
Understand how your beliefs and attitudes can affect suicide interventions
Seek and gain understanding of the reasons for thoughts of suicide and the reasons for living
Review current risk and develop a plan to increase safety from suicidal behaviour for an agreed amount of time
Follow up on all the safety commitments, accessing further help as needed.
The taboo of suicide
Suicide is one of the last big taboos’ in modern day society; A phenomenon that effects so many people in our communities in so many ways and yet has not been tackled with our communities. This needs to change.
In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 (male and female). Suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicides.
Although suicide rates had traditionally been highest amongst elderly males, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of all countries.
There are so many factors that are associated with suicide such as social factors, cultural factors, economic crisis, work stresses, mental health difficulties, family issues, substance misuse, sexual orientation, individual crisis and bullying.
closer to home
In Britain, each year, more than 6000 people kill themselves; that’s 4000 more deaths per year than occur on all our roads.
Yet suicide remains a taboo subject that most people won’t entertain talking about it, never mind feeling able to support someone who they think might be considering taking their own life.
At Forward For Life we are constantly striving to develop programmes that support communities and professionals from all walks of life including our Peer Support Programmes and our Suicide Prevention Training Programmes.
We offer both bespoke and standardised training options and have also developed an on-line gatekeeper training programme for suicide prevention known as LITA as we recognise the value in diversifying our approach to best meet our clients needs.
Want to know more?
For more information about any aspects of work please don’t hesitate to contact us either by email at email@example.com or alternatively by giving us a call on 07585776800.
“Give me the child of 7 and I will show you the man” – the origins of this quote are disputed but the applicability I believe has deep resonance in the world of suicide prevention, especially when the world they have been prepared for moves the goalposts.
Age is just a number
Working in the field of suicide prevention since before the turn of the century I have witnessed more than my fair share of sweeping statements, confusing statistics and utter nonsense’s; some of the former and the latter I have fell foul of myself before I learned the often underrated wisdom of listening and learning before speaking. But by being so entrenched in this field one of the most overlooked facts is that, for both men and women, the age of the person most vulnerable to undertaking a suicidal act has been shifting over time. Not sporadically but in a slow, steady and clearly distinguishable wave. This wave is known to many as Generation X.
Who is the X Generation?
Between the post war Baby Boomers and the mid-80’s born Millenials sat Generation X – people born between the mid 1960’s and the early 80’s. A demographic that is often referred to as the MTV Generation, followers of Grunge or Hip-Hop and viewed by many as slackers, cynical and disaffected during the 90’s and obsessed with the concept of work/life balance today. They are the generation of the Sinclair home computers, desktop word-processors, the pager, the brick sized mobile phones, the CD, the DVD, the answering machine, the Walkman, mixtapes recorded directly from the radio, the video store and the shopping centre.
On August 13th 2019, the Office of National Statistics produced a report entitled Middle-aged generation most likely to die by suicide and drug poisoning – although devastating in nature, I was relieved to see overt recognition of the challenge of Generation X in black and white from the ONS. This is because I remember all too well the mid 90’s when the age highlighted for being most vulnerable to suicidal acts was in the mid 20’s and by the turn of the century is was the 30 year olds, in 2010 we were concentrating on those in the 40 year age bracket and now, it is those in the late 40’s age bracket – my age bracket – my Generation X
Throughout the report there are relationships being lightly drawn between deprivation and suicide rates as well as drug poisonings and suicide. This phenomenon is not only restricted to England and Wales though as it is noted it is equally relevant in the USA as well as Canada. However, even though there is reference made to Generation X, there is no reference to another set of crucial levers that I believe has a huge influence on suicides amongst this generation being the effect on individuals being socialized according to the values of our Baby Boomer parents and the impact of socialization in a world that for many countries changed significantly. A world that no longer lay in-sync with ideals and values of Generation X. It should be noted though, that the ONS writers cannot be held to account for this – after all, this concept is floating into the arms of sociological theory – not a place where ONS understanding has a strong allegiance.
From a personal perspective (which this whole article is), socialization of Generation X by the Baby-Boomer generation can be best encapsulated between the pages of the Ladybird “Peter and Jane” series.
From the toys we were given as boys and girls our futures were being laid out before us. Peter with his crane, toy soldiers, diecast cars and train set and Jane with her dolls, kitchen playset and toy pram. Peter helping his Dad with DIY and Jane baking cakes with mum…for the Dad and Peter.
Peter giving Dad a hand with securing the car whilst Jane helps her mum to get the tea. For many people of Generation X, these publications ‘helped’ to mould our identities, define our anticipated roles in society as well as subdue any alternative ‘outlandish’ ways of being that sat outside these specific frameworks of how to be a man and a woman in the making.
In addition to the written word for Generation X (including Jacky annual for the girls and Victor for the boys), further reinforcement from peers and family members served to reinforce the mould for what we represented in adulthood. We become the products of ‘hard working’, sole bread-winning fathers and grand-fathers in the manufacturing industries who never spoke of the war, never uttered their feelings, never asked for help but instead spoke through their actions and found their leisure pursuits traditionally best served by the local public house on the evening and weekends. On the other side were our mothers and grandmothers who stayed at home, ‘did their motherly duty’, patched us up, cooked, cleaned and generally served us and our male seniors; All of us in preparation for our well-defined futures. And, to be honest, it was all good, because that was reality for many of the Generation X’s as we knew nothing else – and the repurcussions of a short, sharp, smack to get us back on track reinforced this reality as the only reality available.
But the 70’s and the 80’s also saw wider upheavels – it saw legal changes in respect of divorce laws and sex discrimination; it witnessed Thatcherism and it’s push for home ownership; fragmentation through the miners strikes leading to the demise of power across traditional working class represented unions, the painful shift from the traditional UK based manufacturing stronghold and mass unemployment; a passionate ground-swell of rights for women going into further education and beyond and a strong will to push through the glass ceiling of business as well as a belief that both parents can ‘bring home the bacon’ and with that came the ‘latch-key kids’ who were desperately looking to work out how they fitted.
I believe most passionately that because of these wider societal shifts and many more (unmentioned but as valid) besides, Generation X were provided with one framework with a clear purpose yet found themselves growing up in a society where this framework and societally defined purpose became for many, unfit for purpose – it became redundant. Adaptation to these new set of rules has been unbelievably hard for many Generation X women and men with for too many fatal consequences.
For me, I got lucky if lucky is the word. Until the age of 11 I thought I knew reality and knew my purpose. Then my Mum upset the family apple-cart and went to University to study Sociology, something back then that warranted a column in the local town’s newspaper when she obtained her degree. The (often perceived) change in the status-quo at home contributed to a number of outcomes – some unfortunate (divorce being one of them) and some fortunate, being mainly an opportunity to question what had recently been unspoken territory nor up for negotiation until that point. But for many family members, their view of how the world worked was entrenched in them until their last day – socialization is a very powerful force indeed. When I was 20, I was made redundant from the warehouse I was employed at. I loved my job, made some excellent life-long friends and feel that my life benifitted hugely from this experience. But for me, my next step was to look at a different direction of vocational travel. During Sunday Roast with my family, I told my Grandad that I wanted to go to University and study to be a Social Worker and his well intentioned response will always stay with me….
“A social worker? That’s no job for you. You should be a soldier like your brother or a welder. A proper mans job.”
Now, I loved my Grandad to bits with his no-nonsense view of the world, but thankfully on that occassion I didn’t take his advice although sometimes when I look at what Social Workers have to deal with on a day to day basis I often wonder whether his advice had some legs.
Eyes on the horizon
Today, as part of the SCHEMA: An Approach to Suicide Prevention training and as part of the ManMade Peer Support Programme we run, we set aside time to discuss and reflect on the wider influences that may have an impact on Generation X regarding suicide – we recognise deprivation, we recognise substance misuse but we also recognise that suicide is not only about trying to understand the individual and their perceived problems – it’s much bigger than this and goes much deeper. It requires us to look at ourselves, our histories, our societies and what drives us in truly understanding why people may take their own lives. The challenge then is that when we have come to a clearer conclusion as to why Generation X is at risk we then need to look at what can be done about it – without taking our eyes off the generations to come – an opportunity to use what we have learned to make all our futures brighter.
Written by Terry Rigby: Company Director of Forward For Life 2019
Suicide doesn’t discriminate.
Suicide is a devastating act and takes more lives per year in the UK than lives lost in accidents on all our roads. But we can have an impact on this devastating act through learning skills to support a person with suicidal thoughts to consider life options.
Learning the skills that can save a life
At Forward For Life we offer a number of courses to better enable people from all walks of life to support others who may be thinking of suicide. Our courses are both face to face as well as online and include both standardised and our own tailored training options.
Check out our one-day one-day face to face SCHEMA: An Approach to Suicide Prevention programme as well as our online LITA workshop.
What our delegates have told us about our suicide prevention training:
“Will definitely recommend to others, friends and professionals. It helped me to think about suicide in a structured way to help with immediate and long term support.”
“This was a really useful course both for professionals and people who know someone with a mental health issue. Infact, it’s useful for anyone who knows anyone who might need support”
“It was a great day and I feel much more confident now talking to people both as a professional and a friend.”
What are you doing for World Suicide Prevention Day – Are you going to wear purple, wear a yellow ribbon, light a candle in a window, cycle, walk?
If you are doing any of these things then that’s great.
But what about the day after? The 11th September, what will you do then?
Will you stop and just get on with your day to day life until next World Suicide Prevention Day comes along or are you willing to carry on – to take the next steps in continuing to make a real difference?
Are you going to get clued up about what to do if someone close to you appears to be in turmoil, appears to be crying out for help, appears to be in a place where you need to ask the question “are you thinking of ending your life?” and then actually ask the question.
…and if they say “yes”…
…are you willing to listen, non-judgmentally, as to why they may want to die?
Are you going to help them realise alternatives?…and if so, do you know what services, what options, what possibilities there might be to help this person live if they so choose?
For me, Suicide Prevention is not all about being aware of services, but it is all about being aware of what you can do to make a difference. Being aware of what you are capable of.
Suicide prevention is not the sole responsibility of mental health services. It is not the sole responsibility of suicide prevention organisations…and nor should it be… It is everybody’s business…everybody’s responsibility.
So what are you going to do about it…not just on World Suicide Prevention Day, but also for the rest of the year?
Written by T Rigby. Director at Forward For Life
What’s all the fuss about?
Written by T. Rigby, Director of Forward For Life. November 2016
November 19th 2016 celebrated another International Men’s Day. Inaugurated in 1999, this day is celebrated in over 80 countries including the UK. But you might be thinking…”What’s the fuss all about?” After all this is a man’s world, ruled by men for the benefit of men. But is this the story for ALL men?
November 17th 2016 witnessed a House of Commons Parliamentary Debate in advance of International Men’s Day. But it was much less about celebrating men and much more about asking hard questions as to why men were finding it so hard to survive…and there’s good reasons to ask these questions – because in this so called patriarchal society, the benefits of being a man in today’s world are not so easily straight forward to highlight.
To be frank, there is a need for a proper fuss when it comes down to men in modern day UK and here’s why…..
The high male suicide rate
The suicide rate amongst men in the UK is over three times higher than women. This gap has increased since 1981, when the male rate was just less than double the female rate. Since 1981, the female rate has reduced by around 50%, while the male rate has decreased by 14%
When asked, what steps the Government plans to take to improve suicide prevention policies in response to the statistics, this was their response…
The Government has invested over £1.5 million on suicide and self-harm prevention research since the National Suicide Prevention Strategy to inform and target our strategy for reducing suicide rates.
The human cost
But this is surely a drop in the ocean compared to the magnitude of the challenge at hand. Over 4,500 men take their lives each year in the UK. Each suicide attempt has an immeasurable emotional cost on family, friends and the wider community.
The economic cost
But let’s be brutal from a “typical man’s” view, let’s look at the pounds, shillings and pence – the economic cost. The estimated cost for each death by suicide is £1.6 million pounds – it therefore beyond belief as to why an investment of £1.5 million in research over a 3 year period is somehow proportionate to the magnitude of the issue at hand.
Lets do what need’s to be done.
The other question we must ask is whether this amount of investment in research is money well spent. I’m not saying that research isn’t important, but what I am saying is that at some juncture we need to draw a line in the sand. Maybe, stop asking so much “what else can we know?” and start asking “what do we need to do based on what we know now?”
The answers, I believe, were staring the parliamentarians in the face today as the rest of the debate regarding men and their situation gave clear statements as to what specific wider issues in society need to be addressed if we are to tackle suicide amongst men.
The areas discussed, that made grim reading, covered the following:
- The challenges faced by boys and men at all stages of education including attainment
- Men’s health, shorter life expectancy and workplace deaths
- The challenges faced by the most marginalised men and boys in society (for instance, homeless men, boys in care and the high rate of male deaths in custody)
- Male victims of violence, including sexual violence
- The challenges faced by men as parents, particularly new fathers and separated fathers
- Male victims and survivors of sexual abuse, rape, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, forced marriage, honour-based crime, stalking and slavery
- The negative portrayal of men, boys and fathers
The size of the challenge
Now, it is true that men aren’t as likely as women to engage with universal services regarding their health and it is true that many men don’t seek support from their peers. In addition, many don’t talk openly about their problems and it is true that many men see strength in silence whereas the real strength would be to ask for help. However, this does not mean that we should lay the blame at the feet of men – not all men anyway.
The challenge is bigger than most of us would like to admit. Individual blame is too short-sighted; we need to look at ourselves and our taken for granted assumptions as to who men are. To me, it appears that the silent majority has been overlooked and no one is responsible for dealing with this oversight.
If this is a man’s world, then why are so many men taking their own lives?
To get your copy of the full parliamentary report and debate pack from from 2016 then click on the image below.
We are steadfast, we are unflinching, we are men…and we are dying
It has been said that we live in a patriarchal society. We see ourselves as the masters of our own destiny. We often unfairly, have better paid jobs and greater representation in both the business and political power houses that governs the UK in comparison to women. We are expected, on the whole, to be quicker in pace and stronger in arm. We are the providers, the protectors, the fixers, the guides, the shoulders to cry on – we are men, real men – but who are we kidding? Probably just ourselves.
Because there’s a huge problem; it’s all a smokescreen, a sweeping stereotype, or at very best, a part truth. Because many of us are not coping very well at all. We are, after all, just men and our world has changed yet many of us haven’t moved with it. But why would we? Why should we? We know who we are.
We are steadfast. We are unflinching. We are men.
It’s a fact that we are all, to a large degree, the result of the way we were brought up and many of us, as men, are the result of a family upbringing that imbued the traditional concept of manliness and all the ‘strengths’ it espoused. Yet the world around us today finds increasingly little virtue in the traditional roles we have been taught to exhibit from the earliest days of our lives.
Square pegs, round holes
So into the world we have gone with our cemented identity and we are proud to be real men, and for a while, for many of us, all has been good. But as time has gone by and as employment avenues into traditional male job roles have become more and more scarce whilst opportunities for all across the board have become common place the gulf between the traditional man and the requirements of a rapidly evolving modern society have continued to widen. This is a reason why many men have fallen head-long through the gap.
- We identify ourselves by our work status but we no longer have work status.
- We build our friendships through our job but we have no job.
- We demonstrate our strength through our silence but then we are never heard and we dare not speak up as this would show our weaknesses.
- We have lost our purpose or feel that we have somehow been duped.
So many of us cower in dark corners feeling that to step out would only be a step into an alien wilderness in which we cannot survive – a place where hopelessness reigns because we don’t feel able to turn to others because we are real men and real men don’t ask for help.
So how do we survive? Often badly.
We wear masks amongst our peers which serves to uphold and further reinforce the stereotype of being the real man we need people to believe we are. Or we adopt lifestyles that allow us to fleetingly dull the inner pain; we take to the bottle or the chemical and often both. But we are acutely aware that beneath this facade that threatens to crack at any moment our voices are silently screaming out to be heard, listened to, acted upon. But the silence of the real man ensures nothing is heard and the real man facade remains in check – maintained all the way through to the point that for some of us – we would rather die than admit “I need help.”
And when we take our own lives, it’s not selfish to us – we do this because we believe we are of no value. We believe we don’t belong. We honestly believe you would be better off without us. We believe that for everybody, including ourselves, we would be better off dead.
Change has got to come
So there needs to be a change, a major shift in understanding across society because being ‘real men’ in the traditional sense is killing us.
But, more importantly, the shift needs to start with us, as men. The first step for us is to recognise that –
There is no strength in silence. A real man reaches out.
Written by T Rigby; Director at Forward For Life (2015)
For more information on the work we do at Forward For Life >>> Get In Touch