Suicide is a leading cause of death in Scotland among people aged 15-34 years. Every day, around two people in Scotland die by suicide from all ages, genders and cultures. Suicide Prevention Week is a chance to think about this last societal taboo – and how we can prevent people from taking their own lives.
Over the past few years Includem has worked with young people and their families to reduce self-harm and thoughts about suicide. The relationship between our focused support work and the impact it has on families can’t be underestimated because we know that families are pivotal in the whole process. By identifying early those young people who may be at risk of suicide we can provide the right support – before it’s too late.
An important part of this work is encouraging people not to be afraid to discuss suicide – to talk about their feelings and to listen to why they are feeling the way they are feeling. We need to systematically undermine the levels of taboo around self-harm and suicide so people take advantage of the support services that are out there. Only by becoming more accepting and less judgemental as a society can we create a culture where people are open about their emotional wellbeing and willing to ask for help.
One of the other messages we convey in our training is the importance of supporting staff who work in challenging environments. Our project workers operate in highly stressful environments with challenging and complex cases and they need to be confident enough to create an open atmosphere were these issues can be discussed.
Includem works with vulnerable young people who find themselves in a range of difficult circumstances. One such young person, Charlotte, was referred to us as she was a risk to others and to herself. She misused drugs and alcohol and had regular thoughts of self-harm and suicide. By providing a safe space and a round-the-clock support helpline, we encouraged Charlotte to a place where she could manage her emotions and come up with alternative coping strategies to self-harm. This was far from a straightforward process – involving regular emotional support via our helpline, focused cognitive work and intensive face-to-face support but the end result was that Charlotte was no longer a risk to others or herself.
We all have to take some responsibility for combatting the stigma around suicide. There are many organisations out there supporting those who are able to speak up and when we as a society step up and stamp out the stigma around this last taboo we’ll save the lives of many more hundreds of people each year.