Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 – Suicide

Suicide is the 15th leading cause of death worldwide, according to statistics from 2012. It is a global phenomenon in all regions of the world. According to the WHO over 800,000 people die as a result of suicide every year. Many more attempt suicide, so the number of people that are affected by or experience loss because of suicide every year is even higher. For people aged between 15-29 years, suicide was the second leading cause of death. These numbers are shocking to read. Keeping in mind that there is stigma associated with suicide, these numbers are probably under-reported, making the actual number most likely higher.

The WHO defines suicide as an act deliberately initiated and performed by a person in the full knowledge or expectation of its fatal outcome. Suicide can be seen as the final endpoint of a number of different contributing factors, as evidence of a personal breakdown or as a deterioration of the social context of an individual’s life. However you may see suicide as, it is undeniable that it is a very complex situation. Many different things may contribute to it: drug and substance abuse, (social) media, stress, unemployment, mental illness, and many more. It is difficult to exactly pinpoint the cause of suicide.

It is no new information that medical students and professionals deal with greater amounts of stress than the general population. Balancing a demanding medical (educational) programme with other activities or a strenuous schedule with a home life, it can become too much. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFS), roughly 300-400 physicians succeed in committing suicide each year in the US. According to a survey conducted by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), approximately 1 in 7 UK medical students have considered committing suicide at some point during their studies. These numbers show that the medical path comes with obstacles that we need to be more aware of and do something about.

Suicide is more than the act of taking one’s life. It affects those who are connected to the person in question. It can impact both physical and mental health. People bereaved by suicide may experience guilt, anger, shock, depression, loneliness or even thoughts of suicide themselves. For those people it is important to be treated with compassion and support. The pain of a suicide cannot be eased quickly, but there are tools that might help like taking some time off, staying connected and asking for help when you need it. When someone in your surroundings is affected by suicide, it is up to you to try and help them. You can help someone who is bereaved by suicide by listening, including them in your normal activities and trying to be understanding. These are not the only things you can do. Through this link you can read more about suicide bereavement and support after loss by suicide or helping someone bereaved by suicide.

Suicide is a very sensitive topic. It is something that might affect those of whom you least expect it. If you are contemplating suicide, try to look for help. There are many options out there such as suicide hotlines, support groups, and more. If you know somebody who is thinking about suicide, try and help them. If you know somebody who was affected by suicide, support them. Suicide is not the answer and it is not the end. You can be part of the change to conquer suicide.

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