COLUMN: Don't be afraid to ask 'are you thinking about suicide?'

This column is provided by Fiona Bone, suicide prevention lead for the Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation NHS Trust ...

Fiona Bone, of the Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation NHS Trust.
Fiona Bone, of the Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation NHS Trust.

‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ Please say those words.

Last month, it was World Suicide Prevention Day – a day which gives us another opportunity to talk about mental health and suicide.

For me the first step is encouraging people to talk about their mental health. We lose 13 people a day to suicide – just over 6,248 people a year. That could be your boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, grandparent, son or daughter. It is such a terrible loss and we need to do all we can to help prevent it.

So, if you are worried about someone, have a quiet word with them, ask ‘are you okay?’ Take time to listen and let them know help is available.

Don’t be afraid to ask ‘are you thinking about suicide?’ Asking directly is absolutely the right thing to do if you are worried about someone. Many people fear talking directly about suicide in case they 'give someone the idea', but there is no evidence that talking about suicide can be harmful – quite the opposite in fact. Evidence suggests that talking to someone, and asking the question directly, enables them to take stock and can diffuse a situation.

Have an open mind before beginning to discuss suicide with someone, if you are willing to talk about it with them, it will encourage them to feel comfortable enough to talk about it too. And just listen – don’t judge.

I would really recommend taking the free Zero Suicide alliance training to give you the skills and confidence to have a potentially life-saving conversation with someone you’re worried about. The free training takes between 5 and 20 minutes. Find it at www.zerosuicidealliance.com/training

Of course, I know with rising energy costs and the winter coming, things will be challenging for many. If you need to, please reach out to appropriate services – there is always a way forward and there are many people here to help.

We have a mental health helpline that is available 24/7 on 0800 001 4331, or you can find out more about the support available at www.lpft.nhs.uk/contact-us.

Sometimes the briefest of interactions make the biggest impact.