In the UK suicide is the biggest killer of young people – male and female – under 35. In 2015, 1,659[i] young people took their own lives. This equates to over four per day. National charity PAPYRUS, working for prevention of suicide in young people, believes this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Every year many thousands more attempt or contemplate suicide, harm themselves or suffer alone, afraid to speak openly about how they are feeling. PAPYRUS strongly believes that many young suicides are preventable.
The charity was founded in 1997 by a group of parents who had lost a child through suicide: parents driven to prevent other families enduring the same devastation. It draws from the experience of many who have been touched personally by young suicide across the UK and speaks on their behalf in our campaigns and in our endeavours to save young lives.
The professionals in the mental health sector are well equipped with the knowledge and skills to deal with young suicidal people. But the demand is placing considerable strain on services and it can be extremely stressful. Recently chief executive of Papyrus, Ged Flynn, wrote to NHS bosses to ask them to inform their staff that they will be supported by their trust, if they make a best interests decision, to share with appropriate others, information about a patient’s suicide risk, in order to preserve life.
PAPYRUS can help. The charity provides practical help to anyone concerned that a young person may be at risk of killing themselves. It provides guidance for support groups. Its HOPELINEUK helpline service is staffed by suicide prevention advisors. The team also provides advice to teachers, doctors and other health professionals as well as young people and concerned others. Contact cards are available to download
PAPYRUS believes many young suicides can be prevented and that suicide is everyone’s business – it should be a concern for the whole community.
But how do we know if someone is thinking about suicide? No matter what your role is, if you are worried about someone and think they could be suicidal, ask them. We cannot be certain without asking, but there are often signs we can look out for. The charity’s ‘Spot the signs’ campaign, encourages people to ask directly.
PAPYRUS also provides training in suicide awareness and intervention skills, working with many sectors: community and business groups, schools and colleges, NHS professionals are included. It campaigns on a range of young mental health issues and influences national policy.
Children and young people today can be under a lot of pressure. Suicides by children are alarmingly high. 200 school children take their own lives every year. A major PAPYRUS campaign for 2018 is #ClassOf2018 a key component of which is a new guide for teachers and staff: ‘Building Suicide-Safer Schools and Colleges’. It is free to download or purchase print copies.
For more information and guidance visit www.papyrus-uk.org
[i] 1 Office for National Statistics Statistical Bulletin Suicides in England and Wales: 2015 Registrations; Nicva: Quarterly and Annual Suicide Statistics for Northern Ireland; 2015 Registrations; ScotPho Suicide data introduction:2015 Registrations.
Read the Self-harm and Suicide Editorial of The Bridge by Dr Juliette Kennedy