It’s World Suicide Prevention Day, a globally recognised day that aims to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention. This year’s theme is “Creating Hope through Action” – a poignant reminder that where there is hope, there is light in recovery.
We recognise that this may be difficult for some of our readers, so we are going to ask you to exercise your self-care in deciding if this is the right time for you to be reading this…by that we mean: is today the right day? Is this the right point in your day? Is this the right point in your recovery? We encourage you to notice if you need support in reading this blog. Sometimes having someone alongside you is helpful so you can discuss thoughts or feelings as they arise. If this feels like it might be useful think about who you might ask to be there for you.
As always, please remember that you set the pace. Knowing what you can manage and supporting yourself in that is essential in taking care of yourself. Stop reading if you recognise you have read enough or if you notice feelings that are being awoken. Employ your self-care activities. Reach out with comments, questions or observations. We are always glad to hear from you.
An estimated 703,000 people a year take their life around the world. For every suicide, there are likely 20 other people making a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide. World Health Organisation
World Suicide Prevention Day was established in 2003, in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and has since continued to be a day that provides an opportunity for people, across the world, to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention. 2022’s theme felt apt for the Orri community, as we see hope as integral to the eating disorder recovery journey.
“So staying hopeful, keeping hope alive and believing in hope are THE central tenets of recovery, and as such they are fundamental for clients, the team here at Orri and how we work together to achieve recovery.” – Kerrie Jones
WHO says – ‘By creating hope through action, we can signal to people experiencing suicidal thoughts that there is hope and that we care and want to support them. It also suggests that our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling.’
This reminds us how significant and life-saving talking about suicide can be. One of the most common misconceptions about suicide is that talking about suicide may give someone the idea. This is not the case.
In fact, one of the most helpful and preventative things a person can do is to bring it up and discuss it openly.
Eating Disorder Hope states: “suicide is the most common cause of death among individuals with eating disorders. While eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders.”
Latest suicide statistics
The following data from the Office for National Statistics, suicides in England and Wales 2021 analysis, shows that:
- ‘In 2021, there were 5,583 suicides registered in England and Wales’
- ‘This is an increase from the previous year – but believed to be driven by the pandemic causing delays in suicide registrations’
- ‘Females aged 24 years or under have seen the largest increase in the suicide rate since ONS time series began in 1981′
- ‘However, around three-quarters (74%) of suicides in 2021 were males’
We found the latest data a sobering read, highlighting how there are still many individuals suffering in need of support and intervention.
There are many reasons why someone may feel compelled to complete suicide, but some reasons may include:
- A sense of hopelessness
- A distorted sense of reality, not thinking clearly or malnourished
- Feeling as though they are a burden on their loved ones, or,
- Feeling like there is no other way out of their lived experience.
Eating disorders and suicide
Eating disorders are incredibly isolating illnesses. Like anxiety or depression, they are understood as having roots in emotional distress. And co-occurring conditions can mean that eating disorders are accompanied by suicidal thoughts and ideation, or attempts.
According to the National Elf Service, approximately 9% of all people with eating disorders report having serious thoughts of attempting suicide at some point in their lives and 3% actually make a suicide attempt.
Recovery is a challenging journey, and individuals can feel stuck in a cycle or a downward spiral of difficulty where it’s hard to see a way out.
There can also be a lot of shame in this experience, which unfortunately compounds the difficulty in reconnecting and sharing with others again – exacerbating the cycle.
This is where Orri steps in. We are a team of compassionate eating disorder specialists who believe in recovery for all. Importantly, we’re here for the difficult conversations, and invite you to leave shame and judgement at the door.
We know that hope doesn’t always just appear, that at times we have to be conscious and honest and open about our intentions and our goals – we need to set them, state them and do them. We know that it takes courage to be hopeful and trust the process. It also means to recognise the importance of communication. We need to reach out. To make contact with those around us who can support us and protect us when we can’t do that for ourselves. To get help from people who can support us, to try new ways of connecting – be it by phone, zoom, email – or a good old fashioned letter. But to know that you are not alone, that support is available and that change is possible at this time, as it is any anytime, when you reach out and ask.
“To break the narrative and the stigma [of suicide], we need to talk, we need to be honest, we need to open up and let the feelings out and the hope of recovery in.” Orri Guest Blogger
This is why we need to talk about suicide…
It is vitally important to talk about suicide. One of the most helpful and preventative things a person can do is to bring it up and discuss it openly:
“Are you thinking about suicide?”
A previous Guest Blogger, Alice Newton-Leeming, Director of Mental Health Learning and Silver Trainer (50+ workshops) in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), reinforces this message of how actually opening a non-judgemental dialogue about suicide can create hope for the individual…
By asking about suicide, we send a reassuring message, that we are someone who wants to know about suicide. About their thoughts of suicide and we want to help.
But what if I am wrong? I hear you ask.
Then the person knows that we cared enough to ask, that we’re not afraid to use the word suicide, and that it’s ok for them to use it too, whether that’s now, or in a weeks, months or 10 years time.
Asking about suicide is a win-win situation. You may help to save a life in the immediate, or you help challenge the stigma around suicide for the future.
“Are you thinking about suicide?”
Reasons why talking can be hopeful, from someone who has been there
Last year, we received a poignant and moving Guest Blog about an individual’s experience of suicide in eating disorder recovery. She provided her honest learnings when she opened up about her mental health to those around and to professionals. Below are a few examples of how she coped when her “fog lifted”. Perhaps these provide a resonance, and that is ok…
- I challenged my thoughts. My depression said I wanted to die, but what did I want? What was the rationale and reasoning behind these thoughts? What would be the implications if I did? This was the hardest part. But as I spent more time with my friends and family, made sure my environment was safe and comfortable, and removed stressors and triggers from my life, I started to feel less overwhelmed.
- I cried (hard, quickly, and regularly)
- I made small, teeny tiny goals for myself – at the start this was just making sure I got up and showered every day, then it progressed to bigger goals like seeing friends, or restarting hobbies. I think the important thing here is being honest with yourself. Meet yourself where you’re at.
- I allowed myself to feel sad and spent (a lot) of days wrapped in my duvet watching cheesy films
- I read books about depression (‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig and ‘It’s Not Okay to Feel Blue’ by Scarlett Curtis were amazing)
- I wrote in my journal about anything and everything (some days it was simply writing ‘I feel nothing’ over and over again, until I eventually began to feel something)
Ultimately, there is hope. There is support and there are people who care
If you, or someone you know, are having thoughts about suicide, it’s extremely important to reach out for help in whatever way feels comfortable.
There are also many organisations and resources available to talk through your difficulty:
In an emergency:
Call 999 or visit your local GP
Wherever you are today and however you have shown up in reading this blog, we ask that you go gently and grant yourself time to reflect and to lean on surrounding support.
There is hope in the darkness. There is hope in your story.
Thank you for joining us in creating this space to consider this sensitive, but all-important, issue.