Every life matters

"It does not require specialist training to intervene - what it does require is an openness of heart, empathy and kindness."


The importance of reaching out

Mary B. Jackson, Director of Education and Training, LawCare

In September a day is set aside, 10 September, World Suicide Prevention Day, to remember, raise awareness and remind us that there are lives that are no longer being lived owing to death by suicide.  Suicide remains a taboo subject and I am finding this difficult to write as it has triggered memories of 2 suicides of which I have personal experience and 1 attempted suicide. The first two were people known to me, both men one 74, one 44 suffice to say both came as terrible shocks to all of us and the ripples of sadness and loss for those bereaved continue many years later.

The third was an attempted suicide.  I want to write about it as I know part of the ending at least.  I was walking home one autumn night, it was dimpsie, the west country word for twilight and I was crossing the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol when out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure the other side of the bridge on the bank.  At first I really thought I had seen a ghost but quickly realized that this was a young man dressed in a thick overcoat with a rucksack by his feet very close to the edge.  My heart started to pound and I felt panic but something inside me kept me calm and I slowly walked towards him.  I spoke to him very quietly telling him I was there and I wanted to get him some help and asked him please to stay where he was.  He never spoke to me but I knew he could hear me and was listening.  I then went to the nearby bridge office to ask the attendant for help.  He immediately told me to go to the other side of the bridge and warn pedestrians crossing over to cross quietly while he got help.

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"I stayed on the bridge near the man not saying anything as I quite simply did not know what to say. I just wanted him to know that I was there, he was not alone. The emergency services were there within minutes and asked me then to leave. I looked back and he was still there on the ledge. That night I could not sleep. I got up at 6am and went down to the bridge to ask the attendant about the man. He told me the emergency services had persuaded him over to the other side and he had been taken to hospital. I wept with relief."

We really all can learn more about how to help prevent suicide, there is so much excellent training available and there are links to these below.  I want to flag up two things that are so important.  Firstly, asking the question, Are you thinking of suicide/ending your life? is an ok question to ask.  It may well help the person as it suggests you have recognized their deep distress and you want to help.

Secondly we must stop using the phrase ‘to commit suicide’.  Suicide was decriminalized in England and Wales in 1961.  It is better to say something along the lines of ‘died by suicide’ or ‘took their life’. Language is very powerful and using more neutral, compassionate language will help reduce the stigma around suicide.

Here are some useful sites if you want to find out more.  It does not require specialist training to intervene - what it does require is an openness of heart, empathy and kindness.

You can contact LawCare for support on 0800 279 6888

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