The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated earlier this year that 800 000 people across the world die annually from self harm and that many more attempts are made. This is around one person every 40 seconds. It is a global phenomenon and 79% of suicides occur in low and middle income countries.
According to the same article, a prior attempt at suicide is the single biggest risk factor for future attempts. Although it affects all age groups and is the 18th most common cause for death, it is the second leading cause in 15-29 year olds. The latest figures for South Africa are from 2016 and show that there are 21.67 attempts per 100 000 people per year.
Each of these incidents affects a family and affects friends.
Attempts frequently happen during a moment of crisis brought on by financial concerns, loss of employment, grief, or feelings of isolation, but alcoholism and mental health issues such as depression can also be contributing factors. People who are suffering abuse or trauma or living in conflict areas are also at risk. Refugees and people who are discriminated against because of sexual orientation are at high risk.
If someone close to you has attempted self harm before, there are some practical things listed by the WHO which you can do to help prevent future attempts. These include:
• removing access to things they might use to harm themselves,
• encouraging them to seek counselling or treatment for mental health and/or other medical concerns including pain
• keeping in frequent contact with them
Asking about suicide has been shown to reduce anxiety and encourage people to reach out for help and not to provoke them to take action. Find a time to talk to them and check in with them frequently. If you think the person is in immediate danger, don’t leave them alone.
From the WHO website, signs to look out for include:
• Threatening to kill oneself.
• Saying things like “No-one will miss me when I am gone.”
• Looking for ways to kill oneself, such as seeking access to pesticides, firearms or medication, or browsing the internet for means of taking one’s own life.
• Saying goodbye to close family members and friends, giving away of valued possessions, or writing a will.
Further information on how to help someone you think may be considering suicide can be found here http://www.who.int/…/wo…/2017/handouts-depression/family/en/
If you find a family member or friend, or anyone who is attempting to take their own life, contact Community Medics on 087 230 0404 as this is a medical emergency. We will arrange any additional resources necessary for the particular situation.
When someone close to you attempts to harm themselves, don’t underestimate how emotional and traumatic the event is on yourself and others close to the person. Seek counselling from a professional to assist you and help you in case of attempts being made.
Information for this article was sourced mainly from the WHO website. You can find further detail here http://www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/en/