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Mental health experts and the Samaritans joint call to break suicide taboo

Mental health professionals and the Samaritans in Norwich are calling on people to break a big taboo and talk more openly about suicide.

The call comes on World Suicide Prevention Day – an international awareness day held on 10 September every year. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), works with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health, to host World Suicide Prevention Day.

Suicide rates in the UK have been falling since records started in 1981*. And the number of suicides in Norfolk and Waveney has also been falling over that time. Suicide rates locally are lower than the national average and in line with the regional average.

Consultant clinical psychologist at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Anna Vizor said: “Talking about suicide or suicidal feelings remains a big taboo in our society and that taboo stops us talking about alternatives to suicide, 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 solution.

“Communities as a whole can play a part in talking more openly about suicide, thinking about who is at risk, and developing themselves so that they provide people with hope, opportunity, occupation and value within their lives.”

David, Director of The Samaritans (Norwich) said: “There is a common misconception that talking about suicide makes people more likely to take their own life but it’s not the case. In our experience, very often people need someone to talk to and that feeling of being isolated, especially in more rural areas, just makes matters worse.”

The reasons why people feel suicidal vary and often there is not one cause but a combination of problems. The kinds of issues that put someone at risk are:

• difficult life experiences, such as losing a job, financial worries, bereavement or trauma• relationship problems with a partner, friends or family

• experiencing mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety or psychosis

• long-term physical illness

• being socially isolated or experiencing prejudice and discrimination, or physical or sexual abuse

• a history of self-harm – although for most people, self-harm is not about trying to take their life, people who self-harm are more likely to take their lives than people who don’t

Who is at risk?

• Men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women – perhaps because men tend to be less open about their feelings and less likely to seek help.

• Men from poorer backgrounds are 10 times more at risk than men from more affluent backgrounds

• Suicide rates are highest among middle-aged men (age 35-54)

• Suicides rates for women are at their highest in the age range 40-59

• Suicide is the single biggest cause of death for young men (18-34)

• In Norfolk and Waveney between 2003 and 2011: 54% of suicides took place in isolated rural communities 38% took place in small to mid-sized towns

How to help?

If you think someone is suicidal, one of the most important things you can do is to talk to him or her about how they feel and be there to listen. Even when someone appears to be determined to take their own life, it is important to explore every option of support with them.

You could talk to them about the idea of getting help and ask them how they feel about this. By doing this, you can start to encourage them to get support such as seeing a GP, therapist or a counsellor.

• People can contact The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

*In 1981 when records started there were 6,595 deaths. In 2011, there were 6,045 deaths.​