For World Suicide Prevention Day I want to talk about suicide and the topic of baby loss. The title alone is a trigger warning of sorts and it’s a conversation we need to be able to have if we are to prevent more people dying by suicide.
For obvious reasons, it’s a hugely sensitive topic and for that reason there can be a reluctance to talk about it. For an area so intricately entwined with stigma, taboo and misunderstanding this is a deadly irony.
The fluffiness of the term awareness raising can hide the brutal core of what happens when people are not aware of the pain and devastating consequences of a toxic combination of isolation, feeling disenfranchised with no support mechanism. This is why we raise awareness, so people can feel able to speak about that pain and find the resources and support available to help manage.
It’s also about equipping everyone with the knowledge and skills to have difficult and awkward conversations without fear. Much like the campaigns on #FindingTheWords, it doesn’t have to be grand gestures or about fixing the unfixable. It can be about listening, naming it and then helping signpost to appropriate support.
As a community of peer supporters with lived experience we are often vulnerable people supporting other vulnerable people and it’s important to be able to know the signs and handle it appropriately. There have been times where I have been part of online forums and a poster has explicitly stated suicidal ideation only to be met with lengthy descriptions of other people’s traumatic stories. Support not shift is critical here. We all know the fragility of looking for help and how easy it is to be dissuaded by the smallest hurdle.
There are lots of practical resources to help educate and provide a framework for difficult conversations about suicide and if you can, it’s worth 20 minutes of your time to make use of the Zero Suicide Alliance online training.
Talking covers a broad range of ways to communicate and many services like The Samaritans and Papyrus (for young people) reflect that with options to email, text and write to them. They have advice for people worried about someone else.
There’s also sites like the International Association of Suicide Prevention offering links to global resources if you are a non-UK reader:
This by no means the only material available and there are lots of charities across the world offering advice on talking about suicide.
Like the articles and blogs we write about what to say and what not to say there are lots of helpful blogs and charities doing the same to help people support people bereaved by suicide.
While talking about lethal elephants in the room like this we also need to be aware that like all the good noises about being good to talk to someone and get help for mental health there can be a horrible gap between expectation and reality. I see a lot of stories from bereaved parents experiencing intense suicidal ideation following the trauma of loss being turned away from help as it occurred within six months of loss. For some, this may well be too late.