Reflecting on 40 Seconds of Action – World Mental Health Day, October 201921-Oct-2019
World Mental Health day took place recently on the 10th of October. Launched by the Mental Health Foundation and has been running since 2001, the event raises awareness for a range of issues including alcohol abuse, stress and loneliness.
Mental health issues can affect anyone at any time, and this day was one of many great opportunities to improve knowledge on the subject and help with your own personal wellbeing, and the health and wellbeing of those around you.
Mental health is an issue which can start small and can potentially lead to serious problems if it progresses undetected. Fortunately with campaigns such as the one from the Mental Health Foundation, people can get a better understanding, and support the aim of overcoming any complications that occur.
The focus for this year is on suicide prevention.
Over 750,000 people die by suicide every year. In addition to this, for every suicide that is carried out there are more than 20 suicide attempts.
Suicides and suicide attempts are actions that can cause a chain of events to happen which have an impact on the lives of families, the lives of friends, colleagues, communities and society.
With one person dying by suicide every 40 seconds, it is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year olds around the world.
Suicide occurs throughout life and in all regions of the world. In fact, 8 out of every 10 global suicides occur in low and middle income countries. And whilst it is reported that suicide is in relation to mental disorders (especially in the areas of depression and alcohol or other dependency), many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis.
Other risk factors include the experience of the loss of someone, experiencing loneliness or isolation, discrimination, dealing with the break-up of a relationship or dealing with financial problems. Sometimes it could be chronic pain and illness, violence, abuse, and conflict; or some other humanitarian emergency. One of the strongest risk factors for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.
But suicides are preventable, and much can be done to stop suicide at individual, community and national levels.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends four key interventions which have proven to be effective:
Restricting Access to Means
Restricting access to the means is simply to reduce access to lethal methods or resources of self-harm for a person at risk of suicide.
Most people who consider suicidal behaviour are often in two minds or undecided about wanting to die at the time of the act. Some suicidal acts are impulsive responses to what is known as ‘acute psychosocial stressors’ such as difficulties in a relationship, finances or some other social factor.
By restricting access to the means for suicide (which can include reducing exposure or access to pesticides, firearms, heights, railway tracks, poisons, medications - even sources of carbon monoxide such as car exhausts or charcoal) it provides an opportunity for the individual to reflect on what they are about to do, it gives them more time to reconsider and, hopefully, for the crisis to pass.
Set up in 2013, the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) is a collection of private, public and voluntary organisations who work to reduce suicide and support those affected by suicide. They have an extensive library of example guidelines advising on restricting access to means of suicide, such as the Government’s own Suicide Prevention Strategy.
Helping young people develop skills to cope with life’s pressures
Part of this is about developing resilience: If a person takes steps to look after their wellbeing, it can go a long way to helping deal with pressure, and should reduce the impact of stress from everyday life.
Sometimes referred to as developing emotional resilience, if a young person can be helped to return from a low point, in turn this should also train and improve their ability to adapt in the face of challenging circumstance and at the same time help toward maintaining a stable mental wellbeing.
Although it cannot really be said that resilience is a characteristic we are born with, it is something we should believe we have within us and that we can all take steps to nurture and achieve.
As an example, national UK charity MIND has guidance to help you and others accomplish this, which includes:
- Making Lifestyle Changes
- Looking After Your Physical Health
- Taking a Break!
- Building on Your Support Network
Early identification and management of people who are thinking about or who have attempted suicide, and keeping follow-up contact in the short and longer-term
Learning what might trigger feelings in a person thinking about suicide, or learning to spot the danger signs early is one of many valid forms of suicide intervention, as it can help someone decide what steps to take ahead of time to help a person at risk of taking their own life.
There are many different reasons why people think about or want to commit suicide. By talking with a person who shows signs of wanting to take their own life, this can reduce the risk of suicide by identifying the concern and work towards a possible solution.
Rethink Mental Illness is an established charity who has information to help with supporting someone who has suicidal thoughts, as well as additional advice how someone can stay safe and where they can go for support.
Working with the media to ensure responsible reporting of suicide
Whether in the news, films, TV and radio programs or similar media, the reporting of suicidal behaviour and the way it is portrayed in the media can sometimes lead to negative influences or even trigger suicidal acts by people exposed to such coverage, and there is available evidence to show relation between media coverage of suicide and the increase in people at risk of self-harm or of taking their own life.
The Samaritans are a another national charity who, amongst their other forms of advice to help provide support for vulnerable individuals or people at risk, have various media guidelines for reporting suicide and advice on how to cover suicide and self-harm safely.
Collectively, WHO’s approach to suicide prevention is known as LIVE LIFE (Leadership, Interventions, Vision and Evaluation):
- Leadership in policy and collaboration across all sectors
- Interventions for implementation
- Vision for innovation, financing, and delivery platforms
- Evaluation, monitoring, surveillance and research
WHO advise this approach should be in the foundation for any work, or for creating methods and practice, which can be used to develop local or regional approaches to suicide prevention: So introducing or following the above guidelines and interventions can help others around you.
This year’s World Mental Health Day reflected WHO’s continued efforts in suicide prevention through the 40 seconds of action campaign; raising awareness about the impact of suicide in the world and the role that each of us can play to prevent it.
Regular self-care, as well as keeping yourself physically active can also be really good ways of stopping any further problems as they can lighten your worries and provide relief. It can also focus a person’s mind elsewhere, offering the opportunity to reflect on what the situation really is before taking drastic measures.
In today’s rapidly changing society, where we all try to find that balance in our health, with family life, busy jobs and other responsibilities, it should be no surprise that sometimes we can be left feeling overwhelmed.
Reflecting on World Mental Health Day, it should be recognised that the stigma surrounding mental health is slowly starting to be lifted. This in turn is helped by people being open enough (and brave enough!) to talk about their own mental ill health or depression.
The opportunity to talk should not be discouraged through fear of being criticised or judged, or ridicule for speaking openly and honestly about mental health or emotional wellbeing, or for seeking the support that is needed.
Because by having that conversation about mental health, it has the potential to start breaking down the silence, the shame and the insensitivities around the subject, as well as minimise the risk of any harm, discourage fears, but more importantly allows people insight and opportunity to gain a better and more accurate understanding of mental health problems.
As we recognise that life presents us with a mix of opportunities and challenges, sometimes one of the hardest things to say is ‘I’m not ok’. But with the wealth of resources available to help, and the more we talk about how we’re feeling, and encourage others to do the same, we can feel better for our overall health and our wellbeing.