Updated: Monday, 19th August 2019 @ 10:17am

Manchester tackle taboo and get talking for world suicide prevention day

Manchester tackle taboo and get talking for world suicide prevention day

| By Samar Maguire

Somewhere, somehow, every 40 seconds, someone in the world has committed suicide, and according to the World Health Organisation, that's 800,000 people per year.

It's World Suicide Prevention Day, and local suicide prevention experts are joining forces with others internationally to raise awareness on a topic that has become stigmatised.

In other words, people just don't want to talk about it.

Every day, it's found that eighteen people in the UK and Ireland take their own lives, but 1 in 6 people (17.3%) see suicide as a taboo subject, according to research for Samaritans.

But the facts speak for themselves. Suicide is on a steady rise in the UK and Manchester have accrued higher rates than the national average.

Studies show however that the LGBT community are at an increased risk of mental health problems and suicide, experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal feelings than heterosexuals.

It's reported that nearly half of young transgender people have attempted suicide, 44% of young LGBT people have considered suicide, and one quarter of gay men who have suffered from depression have tried to kill themselves. 

Sophie Beer, the Health and Well-being Coordinator for the LGBT Foundation, argues that a revamp needs to occur within the mainstream mental health services.

She told MM: "The LGBT community are at a much higher risk of mental health problems or suicide. This can be attributed to the fact that the LGBT community are less likely to access mainstream support services, which is why we [LGBT Foundation] exist.
"Education needs to start with those mainstream services, and it’s important that we work with them to increase awareness of the needs of the LGBT community.
"The LGBT community need to be consulted when it comes to planning, developing and funding mainstream services to ensure inclusivity. Some good work has been completed, but there is still work to be done.
"I think it starts with building trust with the community, as studies and surveys have shown, while the mainstream services might be 'inclusive', the trust isn’t there and people are less likely to access those services.
"For example, people accessing mainstream services aren’t necessarily 'out', so if they were to go to their local GP, they may not feel comfortable discussing issues around their sexual orientation. They may be more comfortable accessing an LGBT service because they have more experience and understanding."

According to the 2015 Suicide Statistics Report published by Samaritans, the number of people that have committed suicide has risen to 6,233.

But there is a disturbing discrepancy of male (4,858) to female (1,375) suicides. The English suicide rate for males is the highest since 2001 and among men aged 45-59, it's the highest since 1981.

This year's theme for Suicide Prevention Day is 'Reaching Out and Saving Lives' and how we should consider how the role in offering support to someone may play in tackling suicide.

Councillor Joanna Midgley, Mental Health Champion for Manchester City Council said: "On World Suicide Prevention Day, it is important that we highlight the support and resources available to people with suicidal thoughts.

"But we should also not underestimate the role that reaching out and offering support, whether that is just showing care and compassion to someone who is vulnerable or taking the time to listen in a non-judgmental way, may play in combating suicide.  

"We will continue to work closely with our colleagues in mental health and other agencies to ensure that the right support is given to people who need it to reduce the risk of suicide."

Professor Nav Kapur, honorary consultant at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust and Head of Research at the University of Manchester’s Centre for Suicide Prevention in the city, is one of the experts involved.

Prof. Kapur claims on the NHS website that suicide rates in Manchester are dropping but some figures seem to suggest that people are more likely to die by suicide here than in other cities across England.

He said: "The aim of the day is to try to raise awareness of suicide as well as reduce the stigma still associated with it.

"We have a good idea about what helps to reduce suicide rates. Things like improving recognition and treatment of mental health problems or safer prescribing of medication.

"Focusing on high risk groups such as those who have harmed themselves previously or are already in contact with mental health services can also be helpful.

"We do a lot of research into suicide and self-harm in Manchester and we hope our research at the University will directly improve patient care."

Prof. Kapur also believes that social isolation is an important factor in suicide, and that reaching out could have a profound effect on the future of a person's life.

“It’s really helpful that this year the role of ‘reaching out’ is being highlighted," he said. "We know that social isolation is an important factor in suicide. 

"We’re keen for patients to get the best care possible care when they do present to health services. There is good evidence that this can make a difference. 

"For example, some of our research shows that reaching out to people who are in crisis by doing a proper assessment could strongly reduce the risk of self-harm in the future.”

If you or someone you care about is feeling suicidal then help is available. You can contact NHS Direct on 111, or the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. Both services are available 24 hours-a-day.

Photo courtesy of Victor, with thanks.