Wednesday 10th September is World Suicide Prevention Day and this year @physiotalk, @OTalk, @wepharmacists, @AlysColeKing and others will be collaborating for an #MDTchat 8-9pm (BST) to raise awareness of suicide prevention and the role that occupational therapists, pharmacists, physiotherapists and other health professions can play in this.
This chat be part of Alys’ 24hr tweetathon for world suicide prevention day and will follow on from the #wenurses chat taking place 7-8pm (more info on the chat here). Alys will also be leading the Connecting with People 2014 WSPD initiative which will be encouraging everyone to strengthen their connections with others.
This chat will be talking about suicide to raise awareness of suicide prevention and the role AHPs and pharmacists can play in this. We recognise that this is likely to be a very emotional topic for many people. You can mute @physiotalk during the chat, and seek help from family, friends or support organisations. If you need to talk to someone, you can follow this link to find a helpline in your country. The same website has information if you are concerned about someone else. The Samaritans website also has a range of information, including how to start a difficult conversation, or what to do if you’re concerned about a friend on Facebook.
Why raising awareness of suicide is so important
The figures for suicide are compelling. The World Health Organization reports that over 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide each year and the number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined (more information here). In England, one person dies every two hours as a result of suicide (HMG/DH, 2012).
It is also estimated that during 2012 for each adult who died of suicide there were 27 others who made suicide attempts. The psychological pain that leads each of these individuals to take their lives is unimaginable (IASP, 2014). Suicides are not inevitable. There are many ways in which services, communities, individuals and society as a whole can help to prevent suicides (HMG/DH, 2012).
WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY is an opportunity for all sectors of the community – the public, charitable organizations, communities, researchers, clinicians, practitioners, politicians and policy makers, volunteers, those bereaved by suicide, other interested groups and individuals – to join with the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the WHO to focus public attention on the unacceptable burden and costs of suicidal behaviours with diverse activities to promote understanding about suicide and highlight effective prevention activities” (International Association for Suicide Prevention, 2014).
This year world suicide prevention day is focusing on connectedness. Connectedness is crucial to individuals who may be vulnerable to suicide and studies have shown that social isolation can increase the risk of suicide and that having strong human bonds can be protective against it (see here). Research also shows that people in distress, in vital need of support, do not seek life-saving help because of the stigma of mental illness and suicidal thoughts. Reaching out to those who have become disconnected from others and offering them support and understanding may be a life-saving act.
AHPs, pharmacists and suicide prevention
Suicide is complex with psychological, social, biological, cultural and environmental factors involved (IASP, 2014). For example, physiotherapists and occupational therapists commonly work with people who experience suicidal ideation, which can be associated with physical as well as mental illness. This can include physically disabling or painful illnesses including chronic pain, significant sports injuries, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury. Treatment sessions with patients can provide an invaluable opportunity to notice distress, ask questions and respond appropriately – potentially saving a life.
During this chat we want to think about the some of the situations where we might come into professional and personal contact with someone who is thinking about suicide, what you can do to help, and sources of support to help you do this. Connectedness can also be understood in terms of clinical care and we’d like to explore how connectedness between AHPs, pharmacists, nurses, primary care and other local health and social care services can help people who are in distress, and what we can do to improve communication and collaboration at a local level.
“Every encounter with a suicidal person is an opportunity to intervene to reduce their distress and, potentially, to save a life” Dr Alys Cole-King.
HM Government/Department of Health (2013). Preventing suicide in England A cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives. Department of Health, London.
International Association for Suicide Prevention (2014). World suicide prevention day. Available at: http://iasp.info/wspd/pdf/2014/2014_wspd_brochure.pdf
Here are some website links, blogs, videos and articles to have a look at before the chat:
- International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) including to IASP Resources – World Suicide Prevention Day
- Connecting with people – a ‘not-for-profit’ Community Interest Company who provide free online resources and training in building emotional resilience, mental health awareness suicide awareness
- Breaking down the stigma of suicide ( 3 minute video)
- Saying yes to life, despite everything Rob Webster @NHSConfed_RobW
- In perspective – suicide watch: Specialist nurse Karen Lascelles argues that physio staff need to be more aware of suicide risks
- NHS Changeday 2014: U Can Cope People with positive wellbeing, resilience and a good support system are likely to have fewer health problems. This pledge is about being proactive – instead of passively waiting for things to get better – which will provide an increased feeling of competence, self-efficacy and self-esteem.
We hope you will be part of the connectedness of World Suicide Prevention Day this year and join with others around the globe who are working towards the common goal of preventing suicide. You can also search and follow #WSPD for updates throughout the day on Wednesday 10th September.