City of London Corporation policy chair, Catherine McGuinness, says tackling the suicide stigma and talking about the issue is helping people in the City each and every day.
Every four minutes – the average time you’d expect to wait for the Tube – someone attempts suicide in the UK.
In 2017, the number of people in London who died by suicide was almost 57 times more than the number of cyclists who died in collisions in the Capital.
And this public health crisis is on the increase – ONS data shows that suicide rates in the UK recently rose for the first time in five years, including an increase among young people and the highest suicide rates on record for women under 25 years old.
Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK and the highest suicide rate is among men aged 45 to 49. Men who are less well-off are up to ten times more likely to die by suicide than their more well-off counterparts. While suicide is the most severe manifestation of mental ill-health, it can be preventable and the earlier that warning signs are spotted and interventions are made, the more likely it is that an individual’s life is saved.
One of the biggest myths surrounding suicide is that talking about it will give someone who is at crisis point when it comes to their mental health the idea to take their own life. This is simply not true and in fact, the reverse is often the case. By being direct and talking openly with someone who is struggling with their mental health – whether it is a family member, friend, colleague, or stranger you encounter on the street – you could save their life.
Over the past few years, we have made great strides as a society to tackle stigma related to mental health – particularly within a workplace setting. This helps people every single day. By expanding those efforts to incorporate the de-stigmatisation of suicide, we can help even more people feel less alone and encourage and empower them to get the support that they need.
Raising awareness of the signs that someone may be at particular risk of suicide, for example if they are self-harming, or if they themselves have been bereaved by suicide, is crucial to this, as is providing people with the tools to look after their own mental wellbeing and being able to signpost others to support services.
The City of London Corporation has taken a collaborative approach to tackling suicide locally, working with key partners such as the City of London Police, Samaritans, Thrive LDN, the RNLI, local mental health specialist services and the local business community.
As well as providing support to those who are at crisis point, helping our resident, worker, student and rough sleeper populations who are experiencing common mental health conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety, is another priority, as is promoting and fostering positive mental wellbeing. Prevention is key.
Local initiatives such as upskilling our barber and hairdresser community to talk about suicide and help clients who are at-risk, providing a space for people to release the pressure at Dragon Café in the City and supporting national efforts such as the newly-launched ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign, are some examples of the work being done to ensure it is a healthy and happy place to live, work and visit.