By Sandra Quinn

Today (September 10) marks World Suicide Prevention Day and there is a global movement, particularly online, towards raising awareness about suicide, self-harm and depression and providing information about the help that is available.

In the time it would take you to read the last sentence just four times, one person somewhere in the world will have taken their own life.

According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 800,000 die by suicide each year – this equates to one person every 40 seconds.

When a loved one dies by suicide, there are common things you hear like ‘They seemed fine’, ‘I don’t understand, they were always smiling’, ‘I used to follow their social media and it looked like their life was perfect’.

This is where the lines between the online perception of someone and their actual life become blurred and where mental health awareness has a role to play.

In a world where people spend a significant percentage of their time on social media, it is important to remember a few key points;

  • Liking, Sharing, Retweeting, or viewing a post on social media does not equate to human contact. Sometimes you feel as if you have reached out because you have clicked the love heart or shared a sentiment. If you think someone is struggling, the click of a button simply won’t help. You need to reach out, speak to them, sit with them and listen to their worries. Just one hour of your time and attention could mean so much to them in their time of need.
  • What you see online does not necessarily represent a real-life scenario. Sometimes people feel as if they have to over-compensate while online and so they will spend an hour taking that perfect picture of their cup of coffee, being careful to filter out the clutter behind it and not show their true feelings or state of mind – they are using social media to filter out reality. While their coffee mug post might say they are ready for the day, they may in fact be about to throw out that coffee, crawl back into bed and escape the world for the day.
  • Don’t judge a book by a cover. Keyboard warriors are a scourge of the modern online world. People seem to think it’s ok to say something hurtful, mean or cruel, just because it’s online and they feel invincible. So, remember, if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, then don’t say it online.
  • If a loved one or someone you know is posting a lot of pictures, videos and quotes on social media about how great life is, but you haven’t actually seen that person in a long time and they have been avoiding meeting up, perhaps drop in on them, say hello and take the time to have a face-to-face conversation. If someone is struggling with their mental health, it can be hard to reach out, admit there is a problem and ask for help.

If you know someone who might be considering suicide;

  • Watch out for warning signs, such as the person threatening to kill themselves or saying nobody would miss them if they were gone. They may be actively looking for tools with which to take their own life or giving away valued possessions or seeming carefree, as they prepare to say goodbye.
  • Find a good time and a quiet place to have an open and honest conversation about how they are feeling and let them know you are there to listen.
  • Encourage them to seek help and offer to accompany them to an appointment.
  • If you think they are in immediate danger, do not leave them aone and contact the emergency services.

If you feel like life is not worth living;

  • You may be feeling worthless, like there is no point to life. You cannot imagine a solution other than suicide and imagine death as a relief and you do not understand why you are feeling this way.
  • Remember that you are not alone, many others have felt how you feel now and are alive today. Talking about thoughts of sucide can help you feel better.
  • You can get better and there are people who can help.
  • Talk to a trusted family member, friend or health professional.
  • If you feel like taking your own life, contact the emergency services or a crisis line.

Remember, it’s ok not to feel ok. There is help available and even talking to a stranger can help to relieve the burden of what you have been carrying around.

Suicide is not the answer – friends, family, colleagues or health professionals are there to help. Remember that you are not alone.