According to the World Health organisation there are more suicide deaths than war deaths and homicides. With 800,000 recorded every year, excluding those unrecorded or unsuspected as a suicide, such as a car crash or an accident. Police Scotland held an event last month to share their guidance on how to support, help identify and communicate with those who are struggling with their mental health and those with thoughts of suicide.
Everyone has a mental health, when we feel sad, happy or angry this is our mental health. Fluctuations in our mental health is normal and we all benefit by discussions on how to manage and understand our brains; key to our mental health.
This year so far has seen a rise in starting the conversation on mental health. With famous faces from Prince Harry, Kate and William, talking about mental health. Not does this reduce stigma but it is therapeutic, something Police Scotland are enforcing amongst the public and the police – to understand how important our mental health is and the need to talk and understand it.
At the bystander intervention and mental health training night the main focus was on communication.
Firstly, after an introduction on understanding the importance of mental health, as well as statistics – with 2015 the rate of male suicide was more than 2.5x more than that of females, mainly due to lack of communication and ability to speak out – it was discussed on ways we might be alerted to someone’s mental health and distress.
Firstly, their behaviour. If they are threatening to kill themselves, are misusing alcohol or drugs, fighting, law breaking, self-harming, dropping out and becoming distant, using pills or carrying weapons, asking about procedures after death – what do the police do at the scene – putting their affairs in order are some of the common ways of identifying someone who may be in distress and, or contemplating suicide.
With some the behaviour may be less obvious, they may not start using pills or fighting but they may become distant, increased sadness or anger, apologetic and ashamed, make statements of worthlessness or become quiet, with changes in their character. And although you cannot change someone’s mind or perhaps relate, you can help through communicating.
- Use simple and direct language
- Address at an eye level
- Explain you are here to help
- Be honest about what you can and cannot help with
- Remove upsetting influences
- Use open questions to hear more of what they have to say
- Show personal concern
- Let them vent
- Don’t argue back
- Be firm but not intimidating
These are the steps the police recommend to take if there is someone in great distress and may harm themselves, this could be seen anywhere from a bar to on the street, your intervention could give them an opportunity to consider and discuss and hear aloud their options.
Do not however blame yourself if they do choose to end their life or try to, your intervention gave them a chance and made them know they are heard.
By listening to what the person has to say you can help solve and fill in the blanks, and gain a better understanding of what is wrong and how you or someone else can help. By using “active listening”.
- By using open questions, it will encourage them to talk.
- Summarise what they have said to show them you understand.
- Clarifying helps prevent them avoiding certain subjects
- React, say “you have had a bad time” and don’t be neutral.
- Be human.
- Use non-judgemental phrases so they do not feel judged.
- Use your words carefully or they might refuse to talk, don’t make them feel guilty or offended, don’t order them about.
These points may also be used on a daily basis, if you know someone who is struggling with their mental health or you suspect is by communicating, being understanding, allowing them to talk and vent without judgement or feelings of guilt they will open up and speak. This will allow you to understand how they feel and be able to support them and let them feel supported.
There are many numbers to call, sights to visit and places to go for help and advice on mental health.
Call RGU’s own Nightline service on 01224 26 36 46
Young suicide prevention society
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (Mon-Fri,10am-5pm & 7-10pm. Weekends 2-5pm)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15-35.
Or visit NHS.co.uk for more information.