More than 700,000 people die by suicide every year. That’s one person every 40 seconds. In the UK, men are three times as likely to die by suicide than women. And it's the 14th leading cause of death.
These are scary statistics and Covid 19 has only compounded concerns for people’s mental health. However, we know that suicide is preventable and not inevitable. Indeed, it's indicated that for every adult who has died by suicide 20 have been prevented.
World Suicide Prevention Day aims to shed light on prevention, with this year's theme being - Creating Hope Through Action.
"Creating Hope Through Action is a reminder there's an alternative to suicide and aims to inspire confidence and light in all of us; that our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling.
Preventing suicide is often possible and you're a key player in its prevention. Through action, you can make a difference to someone in their darkest moments. We can all play a role in supporting those experiencing a crisis, or those bereaved by suicide." ~ International Association for Suicide Prevention.
So what can we all do to help prevent suicides?
Show you care
Chatting to someone at the bus stop, offering a neighbour a coffee or simply saying hello as you walk past a stranger can all make a huge difference. In some cases, small talk can literally save lives. It may be all that someone needs to generate hope.
With those closest to us, making the time to listen can be very beneficial. We don’t need to be able to give answers but just time, compassion and a listening ear.
It stands to reason that if people ask for help, they are more likely to get it. Reducing the stigma surrounding suicide could encourage more people to come forward and receive the help they need.
Creating a conversation and being compassionate in our attitude towards suicide and mental health would be a big step in the right direction.
Help with diet
There is increasing research to show that diet can play a huge role in mental health. When you're struggling, cooking a meal - let alone a nutritious one - can seem daunting.
By providing those in need with healthy, nutrient-rich meals we could help reduce negative thoughts and support a more positive mindset. Top foods include:
High in Omega 3 fats, which are important for brain health and may help produce serotonin - an important mood regulator. A study in the Journal of Epidemiology and community health found that people who consumed fish were less likely to experience depression than those who didn’t.
Leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables are good sources of folate. Studies have shown that people with depression tend to have a lower blood folate level than those without.
Folates help produce dopamine and serotonin both of which help regulate mood. Leafy greens also have high alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is one of the three main types of omega-3 fatty acids, and wheatgrass has high levels of this.
Research is now beginning to link good gut health with good mental health. Microorganisms living in your gut, including probiotics, could play a big role in regulating moods by helping to reduce inflammation in your body and produce feel-good neurotransmitters which affect your stress response. Kimchi, tofu and yoghurt are all great probiotics.
Walnuts are one of the highest providers of plant-based omega 3 and are also a great source of protein. Almonds contain calcium which can help offset the hormonal imbalance. So adding a handful of nuts to your daily food intake can provide a boost of serotonin.
Suicidal thoughts are very complex and there is no one solution for everyone but by giving people hope and letting them know that we care could have life-saving effects.
If you know of anyone who could be in need of help the following numbers could be helpful:
Suicide Hotline (800) 273-8255 (USA)
Suicide hotline 4570201201 (Denmark)
Suicide hotline 08001810771 (Germany)
Samaritans 116 123 (UK)