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The Psychological Society of Ireland,
Floor 2, Grantham House,
Grantham Street, Dublin 8, D08 W8HD.

 

Press release issued on 08/09/2015
 

Why the Psychological Society of Ireland is supporting World Suicide Prevention Day

 

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), takes place on Thursday 10th September 2015. The theme for WSPD 2015 is Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives. The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) believes that this theme encourages everybody to be proactive and consider the role that offering support can play in suicide prevention, intervention, and also post suicide.

Over 800,000 people die by suicide across the world each year with each individual not only representing a tragic loss of life but also heralding enormous stress and distress for family members, friends, co-workers and communities. Approximately 500 people die by suicide in Ireland each year; typically, 80% of deaths by suicide are men. With Ireland ranking the 4th highest in the EU for the number of 15 – 19 year olds who take their own life, Ireland’s youth suicide figures are a huge cause for concern.

Adolescence and early adulthood are peak times for the onset of stress, distress and mental health issues. At any one time, one in six young adults aged 16 – 24 will have a common mental health issue such as anxiety or depression that meets the threshold for a clinical diagnosis. Psychologists have identified that there are a range of barriers to accessing effective and early care. Transitions between services for children and adults tend to be poorly co-ordinated and there is a lack of appropriate mental health care. In that context, prevention is key.

The PSI believes that WSPD provides an opportunity for the public and professionals, especially psychologists, to unite in action with the shared goal of preventing suicide.

So what can each of us do to help?

Dr Margaret O’Rourke, Clinical Psychologist and member of the PSI, has put together some suggestions of what to say (and not to say) and do when someone close feels depressed or suicidal. Dr O’ Rourke states: “One of the most stressful things about depression or anxiety is the loneliness, the isolation and the sense that the world is getting on with things without a care.”

Here are some suggestions of what you can say and do:

  • “I am here for you, I will listen to you” – Let the person know that you care about them, you are interested and that you want to listen and to understand. Showing that you are interested and want to understand is hugely supportive;
  • “What you are feeling is real, part of being human, it can be managed” – Give the person a sense of normality and hope - light for the future;
  • “I know that you probably don’t feel like it but let’s go for a short walk, we can do it together”- Movement really helps lift mood, even a short, gentle walk will change the energy for the better. A walk will help create a calmer mind and your company will break down the isolation that is felt;
  • Create opportunities to remind the person of better, happier times, what they were like before the depression. It creates hope and shows the person that they have the capacity to be happy, that they can be happy again;
  • If you suspect that the person is really very down find a way to gently ask them about thoughts they may have about suicide: “ I know that you are very down, have you ever thought that you want to end it all, end your life ?” – Do not be afraid that you will make things worse by asking this question, it will not make them feel worse. It will more likely make them feel relieved and understood. If the answer is yes then the most important thing is to encourage them to talk with a professional such as their GP or local hospital. The main thing is to work with them to keep them safe. You could also suggest that they reach out and call a helpline such as the Samaritans on 116 123.


And what not to say and do…

  • “Snap out of it” – This is not possible, not helpful and not kind. Depression is an illness. You would not tell someone to snap out of physical illness would you?
  • “Look at all you have, why would you be down, don’t be so selfish / ungrateful” – Guilt and shame are part of depression. The person with depression is feeling really ill, they are already giving themselves a hard time; try not to make them feel worse.
  • Do not try to jolly things along or to play it down or minimise it. Do not say “It is not that bad” – this will only trigger guilt, shame and isolation. They will feel that you do not understand how they really feel.



What if you are the person who feels suicidal or depressed - what can you do?

If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, it is possible to turn things around. This may be a slow process but by taking the following recommendations from Dr O’ Rourke into consideration, you can start to feel better.
 

  • Take care of your body – Look after the basic needs to eat, sleep and move. Exercise, particularly walking, will calm and soothe the mind. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and any non-prescribed drugs. Alcohol is a depressant; it will only make you feel worse.
  • Take care of your mind – If you don’t like the way you are feeling, change the way you are thinking. Think about ways to soothe and calm your emotions and build healthy thinking.
  • Take care of your behaviours – It’s easier to change behaviours than it is to change feelings. Do what you don’t feel like doing no matter how small. For example: go out for a walk round the block; open the door of the press you need to tidy; insert the name of the person you need to email into the new email; bring the bag of laundry down to the kitchen. When we observe ourselves mastering a task, no matter how small, it helps us to feel better. Happiness psychologists have show that random acts of kindness are associated with a better mood.
  • Take care of your situation – Talk to someone close or to a professional. Do something, however small, to deal with the things that are troubling you. One small step each day will help break down life’s hassles bit by bit.
  • Take care of your soul – Be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself that you are only human and that everyone struggles at one time or another. There are no failures only lessons in life. Cut yourself some slack. Try mindfulness, meditation or relaxation practice. Try happiness habits like writing down three things, no matter how small, that you are grateful for each day. See the PSI’s 40 Tips for Mental Health, Well-being and Prosperity, www.psychologicalsociety.ie.
 

To coincide with WSPD, the PSI will host a Twitter debate entitled What more do we need to do in Ireland to reach out to save lives from suicide? The debate will take place on Wednesday 9th September from 8pm – 9pm, using #PSIchat. Follow the Society @PsychSocIrleland.

If you or some you know is at risk of suicide and you would like to contact a psychologist please see the Find A Psychologist section of www.psychologicalsociety.ie. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1800 273 8255

ENDS.

Notes:

  • The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) is the learned and professional body for the profession in the Republic of Ireland, with the primary object of advancing psychology as a pure and applied science in Ireland and elsewhere. The Society has grown significantly since its inception and now has over 2,500 members;
  • The statistical information contained in this release was obtained from various sources including:
    • The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) brochure for World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) 2015 - https://iasp.info/wspd/pdf/2015/2015_wspd_brochure.pdf;
    •  Ireland’s National Strategy to reduce suicide (2015 – 2020), Connecting for Life - http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/Mental_Health_Services/NOSP/preventionstrategy/connectingforlife.pdf;
  • Dr Margaret O’ Rourke is a PSI member, and is Director of Behavioural Science/ Consultant Forensic Clinical Psychologist at the School of Medicine, University College Cork. Dr O’ Rourke is the author of Everyone’s LifeMatters published by Tivoli Academic Publishing.

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