Suicide Prevention Day: The Trauma For Those Left Behind

Posted at 08:04am on 10th September 2018


I spent the morning speaking with a male friend, of longstanding, whose mother took her own life when he was in his mid-teens. Coincidence? I had no idea that today, Monday 10th September, 2018 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Nor that my daily newspaper was carrying articles on the subject.

'What?' I asked my friend, 'was the effect on you?'

I already knew that his father had been having an affair, of the rift this had caused in the family, and that his mum had left home.

Victor (not his real name) was deep in thought.

'Shame,' he replied. 'Deep, deep shame.'

We continued talking, and Vic spoke of a sense of betrayal - from both parents - and his need to keep silent so as not betray his family.

'I couldn't mention it to anyone.' He shook his head, sorrow etched on his face despite nearly half a century that had passed since the tragedy occurred.

This would have been in the 1960s when the British stiff upper lip - a phrase used to describe a characteristic prevalent in British people of remaining resolute and unemotional when faced with adversity - was still in practice. It was certainly a tradition I had been brought up to adhere to.

'So you didn't ever contemplate suicide yourself?' I asked.

'Heavens, no!' A sense of shock passed across Vic's face. 'Teenage suicide didn't happen in our day.'

'Didn't it?' My question was contemplative rather than requiring an answer from Vic. 'Really? Or was it simply that we didn't hear about it?'


On returning home, I switched on my computer and typed in the question. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the analysis undertaken by the UCBI (US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health) showed that 'suicide is one of the leading causes of premature mortality worldwide'. Equally predictably, it revealed that the rates of suicides in England and Wales were consistently higher among males than females throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries. It was what followed that most surprised me. It appears that the lowest recorded rates were in the 21st Century, which would certainly belie my assumption that the effects of social media have augmented the practice in recent decades.

My thinking was that suicide rates amongst young people had risen partly because of the cyber bullying that goes on, and partly because social media has the ability not only to plant the idea in their minds, but to endorse it as a way out. Hence, cause and effect.

So what is the explanation as to why people take their own lives? Clearly, there are a number of reasons, many of them interrelated: low self-esteem, loneliness, broken families, unemployment, debt. We'll take a look at those next time.

Meanwhile, is the suicide of a loved one something you, or someone close to you, has ever experienced? And how did you (they) cope?

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