About The Day, Stigma Around Suicide & Suicide in Ireland
Suicide is a tragic event in any community that it touches. It is considered the most common cause of death for people aged 15 to 24 with over a million people per year dying as a result of suicide, equal to 1 death every 3 seconds. World Suicide Prevention Day is a global initiative observed on the 10th of September every year dedicated to generating a commitment to widespread awareness of the issues that lead to suicide. It aims to increase awareness of its prevalence and reduce the stigma attached to the topic to encourage progress in its prevention.
A key issue in the successful prevention of suicide is the social stigma that surrounds it. Associations of shame, failure or instability for both the individual and their family have historically prevented obstacles to open discussion of the complex issues that lead to suicide. This stigma is not only inaccurate but also potentially dangerous as it obscures accurate reporting of suicide statistics which can help inform research into its underlying causes. This stigma has been particularly noticeable in Ireland, which has reported a significant spike in reported suicide over the decades – from 76 deaths recorded in 1950 to a high of 554 in 2011. While this can definitely be interpreted as increased occasions of suicide, it is notable that suicide was only decriminalised in the Irish justice system in 1993. Combined with the religious stigma and implications in predominantly Catholic Ireland prior to this, it is only in recent years that the opportunity for a genuine shift in society’s perception and engagement with the cause of this tragic problem has presented itself.
Certain demographics in society have consistently reported as susceptible to the effects of suicide, with this trend being observed in Ireland as well. The highest risk group for suicide is traditionally young men, who are 5 times more likely to die by suicide than women. And while the precipitating cause of any suicide is difficult to determine, a trend of high level of suicide in heavily urbanised areas like Limerick City and Cork City suggest that geographical and socio-economic factors can contribute.
World Suicide Prevention Day is observed in Ireland through committed campaigns by suicide awareness organisations to highlight these stark realities as well as educate the public on some of the warning signs of potential suicide as well as ways to support someone in your life going through related issues. While no warning sign can be taken as definitive, recurring indications can include a change in behaviour that includes excessive conversation about death, dying and loss, low self-esteem, a lack of hope for the future, fear of losing control and a sudden, withdrawn personality.
The first and foremost way to help someone who is at risk of suicide is to take it seriously. Studies have shown that in Ireland 75% of deaths by suicide were preceded by a long period of decline and depression. Engaging with the issue at hand and taking the problems suffered by the individual as genuine is the gateway to further support. Equally, suicidal behaviour is most often a cry for help – individuals who exhibit the warning signs of suicide may feel trapped and limited by their options and will benefit from the reassurance of an open, understanding atmosphere. Providing a stigma free space in which you invite the individual to discuss their issues without judgement can be a vital support.
Above all, if you are experiencing issues related to suicide in your life, it is imperative to seek professional help as soon as possible. Suicide is a significant and complex issue and the sooner that you and any affected individuals engage with trained care providers the more likely it will be that help can be given and issues can be dealt with successfully in the long term.