World Suicide Prevention Day and a Musician’s Voice
IT is not a day or event that will lead to Internet fads and stupid…
costumes. Like all the banal and what-the-hell-is-the-point days we are forced to recognise –Dress Like a Pirate Day springs to mind – this one will perhaps get less attention, unfortunately. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and addresses a problem that is common to all of us: depression and mortality and how the two go hand-in-hand. Maybe 1 in 4 of us will experience depression in our lives but that much-heard statistic seems too low and illogical – most of us, in some degree or other, will experience depression in our lifetime. Mental illness is not just about depression and is not the only cause of suicide – anxiety, eating disorders and other psychological disorders are just as relevant and culpable. It is not good enough, in this day and time; we should be ignorant of such a huge and growing issue – that is why World Suicide Prevention Day is so key and important. Before carrying on, let me give you some facts from the official World Suicide Prevention Day website:
“The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds. In Australia more than 2500 people die each year with latest figures (2014) telling us that 2,864 Australians took their own life. Research also tells us that some 65,000 people attempt suicide each year. This tragic ripple effect means that there are many, many more people who are impacted by or exposed to suicide and the pain it brings when… it touches our lives”.
Not only is it Australia – where the event/commemorative day emanates – where there is a stigma and need to take action – suicide occurs in every nation on earth and we all hear the stories from the press. It seems a day does not past when a life is lost needlessly. Whether – the reason behind this – is a lack of dialogue or understanding; not enough government intervention or old-age views of mental illness – many assuming it is something to ‘get over’. If you cannot see physical evidence of suffering then you’re okay, right? No. That is the underlined curse that the mentally ill (including myself and many others) have to deal with. I have heard people tell me to “get over myself” and, worst of all, “there are those much worse off than you”. How would you know that?! How do you know how bad things are and who cares about others?! I know there are those with terminal illnesses and have lost their families but how is that relevant to what I am saying?! My heart goes out to them but by saying that (others are worse off) it is ignoring my problems and assuming I am pouting about nothing. That is one of the biggest problems in society: the lack of understanding and empathy from non-sufferers and how much ignorance still pervades. Looking at Samaritans’ website some figures really underline the problem:
Key trends from the Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2016
There were 6,581 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland, in 2014.
- In 2014, 6,122 suicides were registered in the UK. This corresponds to a suicide rate of 10.8 per 100,000 people (16.8 per 100,000 for men and 5.2 per 100,000 for women).
- The highest suicide rate in the UK in 2014 was for men aged 45-49 at 26.5 per 100,000.
- The male suicide rate decreased in the UK (by 5.6%), England (by less than 1%), Wales (by 37.6%), Scotland (by 17.6%), Northern Ireland (by 10.2%) and Republic of Ireland (by 6.4%) between 2013 and 2014.
- Female suicide rates increased in the UK (by 8.3%), England (by 14%), Scotland (by 7.8%) and Republic of Ireland (by 14.7%) between 2013 and 2014. Female suicide rates decreased in Wales (by 38.2%) and Northern Ireland (by 17.7%).
The female suicide rate in England is at its highest since 2005.
- The female suicide rate in the UK is at its highest since 2011.
In the U.S., the rate of suicide is increasing and a recent BBC article showed how it is rising in the student population. It is paramount suicide is not ignored or underestimated because all the facts and figures are in front of us.
World Suicide Prevent Day is not a doom-and-gloom reminder of how widespread mental illness and suicide is: it is designed to get people together and get mental illness sufferers talking and opening up. Countless mental health charities are taking part and getting involved today and creating awareness and conversation – helping to ensure future years see fewer suicides and measures being taken so we can tackle a situation that is getting out of control. Connecting with others and letting people know that #ITSOKAYTOTALK is the key message for this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day. Samaritans have answered the key questions for those who might wonder why we have such a day and need to look closely at the issue of suicide:
What is World Suicide Prevention day?
World Suicide Prevention Day is held each year on 10 September. It’s an annual awareness raising event organised by International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This year’s theme is about connecting with others and letting people know that #ITSOKAYTOTALK.
Why is it important?
More than 800,000 people take their lives each year across the world. In the UK and ROI, more than 6,000 people die by suicide a year – an average of 18 a day.
Reaching out to people who are going through a difficult time can be a game-changer. People who are feeling low or suicidal often feel worthless and think that no-one cares. Small things like hearing from friends or family, feeling listened to or just being told that ‘it’s ok to talk’ can make a huge difference.
What you can do
Start a conversation today if you think a friend, colleague or family member may be struggling.
You can also join us on Twitter to spread the word.
When a person reaches a point where they are focused on taking their life, they’ve often lost sight of trying to find a way through their problems. This period usually only lasts a short while and often it doesn’t take a huge amount to bring someone back from that decision – something as simple as saying, ‘it’s ok to talk’ can be enough to move someone out of suicidal crisis.
How can people reach out?
It can be daunting to approach someone who is struggling to cope; you may not know what to say, how to start a difficult conversation or worry that you’ll make things worse. However, you don’t need to be an expert. Often, just asking if someone’s OK and letting them know you’re listening can give people the confidence to open up about how they’re feeling.
The reason I wanted to write this piece, in addition to supporting World Suicide Prevention Day, is tie it to music and what I do – the fact many artists and songwriters are getting involved and getting their voices heard.
Joshua Luke Smith is a multi-talented musician, poet and writer who has been making his name as one of the finest Rap/Hip-Hop artists in the U.K. Someone who has suffered/suffers mental health issues and knows how hard the day-to-day reality can be…
he has written a special piece; a poem that raises hope and tells how vital it is to share and talk. Becoming Human is a powerful piece that looks at how vulnerable and connected we become with one another when at our most tormented and affected. In his own words, he described Becoming Human:
“I wrote Becoming Human to connect with the heart of our human story. In a driven culture based on success and stature where is the space to become, to grow, to fall and then stand back up? In reality we connect at our most vulnerable. We all break sometimes, we all arrived here naked. We don’t talk about our weakness enough and that’s why I think so many of us feel lonely, isolated and disconnected. I wrote the poem as a personal challenge to myself to remain present, intentional and aware of the beautiful, restored ruins I have the honour of being connected to, simply through the essence of being human.”
It is a powerful and brilliantly delivered piece whose video, made in collaboration with Orphan No More (and filmmaker Dom Doring) that verbalises and visualises the problem – how we can often connect about mundane things but not talk about deeper and more serious issues. I cannot do full justice to Becoming Human but urge you to watch it and let its words and effect take hold and get into your head – a beautiful piece of work that aims to de-stigmatise mental illness and show how we can all help reduce a big problem that is inescapable and harrowing.
Smith wrote the piece and is being supported and promoted by Samaritans. Becoming Human is a piece of art that is not just meant for a single day and to fit in with a crowd: it is a timeless poem that should be played every day until suicide is a minor concern – it will be one day I am for sure. World Suicide Prevention Day is getting people together and engaged and that is a great thing. Let’s hope, when many of us are already thinking ahead to Christmas and family, we do not sweep suicide under the carpet and only recognise it once a year. Like cancer and every illness on the planet, it affects more than those that suffer it – suicide remains the leading cause of death for young men in this country and that seems extraordinary. While cancer gets huge charity events and media exposure, the death rates – among men at least – are less when compared with suicide. So why does mental illness and suicide get overlooked by comparisons? Maybe there is a stigma and it is a taboo subject that may take years to fully gain acceptance. In 2016, it is not good enough so many suffer psychological and mental illness to the extent they feel death is the easiest way out – how is that acceptable in society? On a very important day, not only should you hear Becoming Human and take in its messages and potent sentiments, but join the discussion on World Suicide Prevention Day. Those who suffer mental illness and contemplate suicide feel alone and like they are misunderstood. If we all become more aware, engaged and conscious then not only can we reduce suicide numbers for good but those who contemplate such a dark fate…
GET the support and love they need.
World Suicide Prevention Day
Joshua Luke Smith
Orphan No More
Dom Doring (film maker)