This week is Suicide Prevention Week, which runs until September 13 and coincides with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.
It seems a difficult subject to talk about. I can visualise now the awkward foot shuffle or aversion of eyes when bringing up the subject – and it gives me pause to wonder why.
I’d never think twice about asking someone who broke their leg how they were feeling now that they are back on the road to recovery, and I’d definitely be giving them advice or sharing my own experiences on the subject with a hope of making them feel better or preventing future trauma. But there’s just something about the conversation about suicide that makes people feel uneasy.
Maybe it comes from fear of making things worse or not knowing how to help, but the reality is that if people are feeling that low anyway, talking to them about it definitely won’t make it worse, so I urge you to talk away.
The only way to tackle that awkwardness I referred to earlier, is to make the conversations about suicide prevention more frequent and not shy away from them. To normalise being ‘not okay’ and reduce the stigma (the feeling of being judged) attached to having those feelings. It sounds simple I know, but it really does start with a conversation.
As police officers, we see the tragedy and impact suicide can cause, but we also get to witness the compassion, kindness and professionalism from so many partner organisations who want to change things and who are always looking for a way to make the slightest difference. Locally, we’ve seen the development and circulation of the Prevent Suicide App, new ways of promoting suicide awareness, and we’ve seen grassroots help groups, such as Man Chat in Aberdeen, spring up through local need, led by motivated individuals with a strong ambition to change the way people think about mental health and mental well being rather than accepting ‘it is what it is’.
I guess what I’m saying is that I see a lot of hope appearing from the sadness, and the more we are willing to believe suicide doesn’t have to be an inevitability in society, the more traction these groups will gain and the hope increases.
So with suicide prevention week now underway, there should be lots of messaging and conversations on the go – join in, talk openly and read up about what you can do to help prevent suicide. Every little helps, whether it’s through awareness raising, posters in canteens at work, or thinking about how you could incorporate kindness into your daily routine.
Finally, if you are one of those people with those feelings – reach out in whatever way you want, to whoever you want, at a time that suits you. That wall in front of you just might have a door.
‘Prevent Suicide – North East Scotland’ is a prevention app and website available to users across the region. It provides helpful information for those thinking about suicide or worried about people who might be and has extensive contact details for services in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, as well as providing users with the ability to create their own safety plan.
Visit www.preventsuicideapp.com for more information, and for details of how to download the app.