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Help break the suicide taboo

​World Suicide Prevention Day – 10 September

Experts from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) are urging people to break a taboo and talk more openly about suicide in the run up to an international awareness day.

The Trust is appealing for anyone who is worried a friend or loved one may be feeling
suicidal to take the time to talk to them and do what they can to persuade them to get help to manage their feelings.

The call comes in the run up to World Suicide Prevention Day, which takes place annually on 10 September and is arranged by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health. This year, it carries the theme “take a minute, change a life”.

The Trust is also using the day to raise awareness of the help which is available from its wellbeing services in Norfolk and Waveney and Suffolk, which includes one-to-one support, counselling, self-help advice and courses to improve wellbeing.

“Suicide is rarely something which just happens out of the blue,” said Dr Bohdan Solomka, NSFT Medical Director. “Often there is a long build up and people have had conversations about it in the weeks and maybe months leading up to it, which means there are opportunities to try and persuade them to get help.

“It’s really important for people who feel this way to talk to their family or friends and get their support, then ask their GP for a referral to the wellbeing service. There, people can get help to manage their depressive feelings and anxiety, which prevents it from snowballing into something much more serious.”

People can feel suicidal for a wide variety of reasons, and may be facing a combination of problems which have built up over time. Those particularly at risk are teenagers or middle-aged men, people with a previous history of mental health problems, anyone who has self-harmed or already attempted suicide and those who use drugs or alcohol.

Figures compiled between 2012 and 2014 by Public Health in Norfolk and Suffolk show:

• An average of 77 suicides take place each year in Norfolk (10.3 per 100,000 people*) and 62 in Suffolk (8.7 per 100,000 people*). The rate for England as a whole is 8.9 per 100,000
• A third of all people who die by suicide are aged between 45 and 59
• 90% of people who died by suicide had seen their GP in the 12 months before their death. Nearly a quarter (23%) had seen their GP in the week preceding their death

(*These are the total suicide rates for each county, not for people specifically under NSFT care)

Dr Solomka added: “Talking about suicide or suicidal feelings remains a big taboo in our society, which makes it harder to explore alternatives and find ways of increasing hope and other less final solutions. We can all do more to prevent people feeling that taking their own life is the only answer to their problems.

“Society has started to provide some wider protection, such as selling paracetamol in smaller packs and putting higher prevention barriers on car parks, but we can still do more as a community. By talking more openly and thinking about who is at risk, we can offer a helping hand and give them that lift which gives meaning back to their lives.”

Anyone who is concerned that someone may be suicidal should encourage them to get help by seeing their GP, therapist or a counsellor or contacting the Samaritans on 116 123.

People can also self-refer to the wellbeing service for additional support by visiting or calling 0300 123 1503 in Norfolk and Waveney or 0300 123 1781 in Suffolk.

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