Louise Bone talks about suicide awareness and the need to keep an eye on those around us.
Starting on 13th June, Professor John Gibson, his wife Isobel and some friends will begin a marathon walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats. They’re making this 1,200-mile journey in memory of their son Cameron who, shockingly, took his own life in October 2019. The death of the 24-year-old vet came out of the blue as they had no inkling beforehand that he was harbouring suicidal thoughts. By taking on the walk they hope to raise awareness of the issues around suicide and to get people talking about this difficult and still taboo subject.
More than 6,000 people in the UK take their own lives each year. That’s more than four times as many as those killed on our roads (1,390 in the 12 months to June 2021), which is a sobering thought. Although there are some variations in the figures across the four home nations, generally men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women, although women are more likely to self-harm.
John and Isobel want to get people talking about suicide. People often shy away from asking someone if they are contemplating suicide ‘in case it gives them ‘ideas’. However, evidence shows the opposite and finds asking someone if they’re suicidal can protect them. By asking someone directly about suicide, you give them permission to tell you how they feel and let them know that they are not a burden. According to the Samaritans website ‘People who have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it was to be able to talk about what they were experiencing.’
As well as taking on the walk, John and Isobel have set up a charity, The Canmore Trust to work in suicide prevention and also to support people affected by the suicide of a loved one. The charity’s mission is to ‘Create safe spaces for lives impacted by suicide’ and its vision is ‘A world where people feel mentally, physically and societally safe enough to stay.’ Suicide is a choice and The Canmore Trust wants people to feel that staying in this world really is a valid option for them.
The dental profession has experienced a high suicide rate in the past, so it’s important to keep an eye on colleagues. Suicidal feelings can affect anyone, of any age, gender or background, at any time. However, they are only thoughts and don’t need to be acted upon. If someone does let you know that they are having suicidal thoughts, always take them seriously. You don’t have to be able to solve their problems. But, if you feel you can, offer support and encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. The mental health charity MIND has some really helpful information on how to support someone who’s experiencing suicidal feelings. Taking them seriously and listening compassionately without judgement is the best way to approach things. Let the person know you value them but without saying negative things like ‘I would be really sad if you died’. It’s important to let the person talk without trying to solve their problems but let them know you have heard them. You can find out more about how to support someone who’s having suicidal thoughts on the Samaritans website.
You can read more about John’s training walks, the work he’s doing and see the route he and Isobel will walk on his Instagram group #onemanwalkingamilliontalking. You can also read posts from others who have been affected by suicide. If you’d like to make a donation to help support the work of The Canmore Trust, you can do so on their fundraising page here.