Content Note: Suicide, mental illness, mentions of queerphobic bullying & harassment
The British sense of squeamishness is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Whether it’s discussing BDSM power dynamics on the bus, saying the ‘F’ word on Radio 4 or queering the gender binary, very few things are ‘unmentionable’ any more. But when it comes to mental health, it’s often still hard for people to find the right words to say and, despite a greater tolerance and understanding of mental illness, one issue resolutely remains a taboo – suicide. It’s a silent epidemic that killed over six thousand people last year, but as a community we’re still afraid of talking about it.
The message of the STOP Suicide campaign is that suicide is everybody’s business, and sadly it’s especially relevant to the LGBT+ community. Bullying, harassment and prejudice are a daily reality for many LGBT+ people, and this discrimination can have a devastating impact on a person’s mental health. This is especially true for people who don’t have an accepting support network or haven’t developed a positive identity as LGBT+. The statistics make a sobering read: LGBT+ charity METRO found that nearly half of young LGBT+ people have had suicidal thoughts, significantly more than their heterosexual peers.
The chances that are someone you know, queer or not, has felt suicidal. The stigmatisation of suicide means that most people wrestle with these thoughts in silence for fear of being branded as weak, selfish or dangerous.
This is what STOP Suicide is working to change. Everyone can take an active role in suicide prevention and as a community we can make a real difference by being aware of the warning signs, asking directly about suicide and by hand supporting those who are feeling suicidal.
What to look out for
Not everyone who thinks about suicide will tell someone or give an indication of their intentions. However, there are warning signs to be aware of:
- Recent stressful life event: exams, death of a family member, splitting up from a partner
- Recent depression
- Talking or writing about suicide: don’t assume that they’re attention seeking, always take them seriously
- Becoming withdrawn and distancing themselves from friends or loved ones
- Talking about feeling hopeless or a burden to others
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Worried about someone?
If you’re worried about someone, the best way to help them is to ask, calmly and directly, whether they’re considering suicide. It really is that simple. There’s a common misconception that mentioning ‘the S word’ will somehow spur a person to kill themselves but this couldn’t be further from the truth. You may feel like you’re running over hot coals, but for them it will be a relief to know that they’re not alone.
If the answer’s “yes”, don’t panic, just be honest, compassionate and listen, really listen, without judgement. Reassure them that you can look for support together, give them the details of a helpline or offer to make them a GP appointment. The most important thing is to make sure they’re safe.
All a conversation will cost you is time and you could, ultimately, save someone’s life.
Zoe Rice-Jones (GR. Contributor)
Where to go next…
To find out more about the campaign, sign the STOP Suicide pledge and receive your free “I’d ask” badge go to stopsuicidepledge.org
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