With today marking World Suicide Prevention Day, and September being National Suicide Prevention Month, organisations across London are hoping to draw attention to initiatives aimed at saving lives and raising awareness.
Suicide is the act of intentionally taking your own life and is associated with a number of factors including experiences of loss, addiction, isolation and some mental health conditions. According to national mental health charity Mind, people with suicidal feelings can experience a sense that people would be better off without them, will find themselves considering methods of suicide, or make plans to take their own life.
Suicide is a growing concern across the UK. In 2018, a total of 6,507 suicides were recorded, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), up 686 on figures for the previous year (5,821 deaths) and equating to an 11.8% rise.
Mind explains that suicidal feelings can affect anyone, of any age, gender or background, at any time. However, the highest rates of suicide are found amongst men in their 40s. It remains the leading cause of death in young men.
The suicide rate in women has risen since 2017 and is at its highest since 2005, though the rate for men is still three times higher. According to research by the London Suicide Prevention strategy, two-thirds of people who die by suicide are not in contact with mental health services and around half of those who have attempted suicide do not seek specialist help. If you suffer with suicidal thoughts, or know someone who does, there are local organisations that can help:
Between 2014-2016, Tower Hamlets had one of the highest rates of suicide in the UK.
Last Year Tower Hamlets launched its first Mental Health Crisis Line (020 7771 5807), available 24 hours a day, it offers callers support and advice from mental health professionals.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, told East London Lines: “Every suicide has a profound and wide-ranging impact and is a personal tragedy and loss for family, friends and wider society. On Suicide Prevention Day, we want to make sure that everyone knows where they can get help whenever they may need it. The council will continue to work together with health, business and community partners to strengthen the work that is going on in our borough to reduce the risk of suicide”.
East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) is offering free suicide awareness training in Tower Hamlets in partnership with the Tower Hamlets Community Education Provider Network . The course aims to teach students how to identify someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts and how to help.
Dr Charles Gostling, a local GP and Senior Clinical Director at Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “There are many myths surrounding suicide – including the fallacy that people who talk about suicide aren’t serious in their intentions. But it’s important to stress that suicide is not an inevitable conclusion and it can be prevented.”
People in Lewisham can access the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM; 020 8314 7777) mental health support line.
Tower Hamlets, Croydon, Lewisham and Hackney councils are all supporters of the Thrive LDN campaign which aims to raise awareness of mental illness and to get 100,000 Londoners to take online suicide prevention training.
Thrive Lead and Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, said: “As recently as 1961, suicide was still an illegal act in the UK. Much of the stigma and unwillingness to openly discuss this issue stems from its prior association with the shame of criminality. Fortunately, we have evolved as a society and now understand that suicide is a very real, and preventable, tragedy.”
As part of the council’s pledge to reduce suicide rates in the borough, the City and Hackney 24 Hour Mental Health Crisis Helpline was formed and puts callers in touch with mental health professionals (020 8432 8020). The council also offers a Walk-in Crisis Café (07393 762366), which offers a place for anyone struggling and not coping with life. The cafe is open from 6-9pm Monday to Friday, and from midday to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.
The Service User Network (SUN; 07508 842688) is for people who experience emotional and psychological distress, frequent mood changes, emotional instability, self-harm and/or have thoughts of suicide.
Dr Agnelo Fernandes,local GP and Assistant Clinical Chair of NHS Croydon CCG said: “Although it can be difficult, if you are having suicidal thoughts it is really important to talk to someone you can trust. This could be a family member, a friend or a health or social care professional. You should also talk to your GP, who can help with mental health problems by providing advice and treatment, such as medication or counselling.
“Don’t feel ashamed of how you’re feeling. Worries about mental health are the second most common reason for visiting a doctor, so you’re not alone.” Croydon council offers a help page via its website.
The Samaritans also offer a free confidential service to those who are in need of support, call: 116 123.