I was not sure whether I should write this one. Then I was.
I have been thinking about suicide
lately. Quite a lot.
It's not in a "taking my own
life" sort of way, but in a "what can we do about it" sort of
It is a painful and heart breaking reality that
suicide is all too much a part of life. It's a bad part of life.
It's a part of life worth trying to make better. I've avoided
even talking about it, until recently. That has made it difficult to do
anything about it. I now talk about suicide.
Every copper I know has been touched by a job
where someone has taken their own life. I and four other officers I
know have had to watch helplessly as people took their own
life. It sucks.
And it was shocking to realize that three
colleagues I have worked alongside on various teams have also
taken their own life.
Until recently Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
had the highest per capita suicide rate in the UK. It is fourth
now. Nationally there are about 6,000 death certificates issued each
year which show the cause of death as suicide. Putting that in perspective,
since 2010 there have been less than 2000 fatalities per year on our
I know all this because I have had the
opportunity to attend two courses recently. The first organised by the
Police Federation and designed to help officers help officers, and the second
organised by the National Health Service in Cornwall designed to equip anyone
who wanted with the knowledge and skills to help someone who is having thoughts
of suicide. This course is called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills
Training or ASIST, and like lots of good stuff lately seems to have kicked off
One of the interesting things I saw on the
course was this;
Bridge between suicide
Two hundred suicide interventions is a
lot. It's way more than anyone I know, and I know a couple of very
experienced Hostage and Crisis Negotiators. So I guess Sergeant
Briggs knows what he is talking about. He actually talks through what is
in the syllabus of the course pretty well in one way or another. There’s
just one thing extra I’d mention.
That is the "why" would you take your
There are suicide survivors who have told their
stories and explained the reasons they made attempts on their own lives. There
are some common experiences.
Bad things happened in their lives; so many, so
bad or so big that it feels as if they just can’t be faced or "dealt
with". Usually there was also lot of other stuff causing stress and worry. They became physically or emotionally isolated for
whatever reason. Some had reached out or made "cries for
help" which did not help. Others couldn't ask for help. Most had slipped into clinical depression and could not see a way out.
The instructors on the course described it
as being in an utterly "hopeless and helpless" place. It's
a horrid, painful place to be.
Most of those brave people who have shared their
experience as survivors said two things about the attempt itself. First
was that they made the decision to suicide because they wanted the pain to
stop, not because they wanted to be dead. Second was that during the event they regretted what they had done and wanted to live.
So what can be done about it? Apart from
being a friend?
Well, assuming we have taken the time and
trouble to go and talk to someone we are worried about:
1. Listen carefully and see if they
mention or you think suicide is on their mind.
2. If a suicide inkling is there, then ask
them. The advice is that no survivor has said they thought of suicide
because someone asked them. Just the opposite. A version of, "You
seem to be going through a lot at the moment. I am worried for you.
Have you had any thoughts of suicide?" seemed to work well on course.
3. Now, this is the "how long is a
piece of string" bit. Talk to them and try to get them to tell
their story. Listen well when they talk. Do not judge them. If you
can, gently guide them into explaining why they are in the situation
they are in. Don't tell them to "get a grip" or anything
4. Keep a look out for turning
points; turning away from suicide.
5. Help them take the first step back
from suicide; taking them home to a relative or friend or going
with them to make an appointment with a GP. Something like that.
Finally, if it does not end well it is not your
fault. You tried. In the same way a medical first aider may try and
it still end badly. If it does end well, you just saved someone's life.
Do let me know if there's anything else you
would like to know. I can phone a friend if I don't know.
But if you need help now you should know that I
don't see your messages for a while, so why not phone one of your friends,
or the Samaritans. They're good people. Their number is 116 123.
PS - Please drive with care, be kind to others
and yourself, and don't steal stuff.