We are all aware of the current public health crisis; coronavirus has changed the way we all live our lives in the past six months.
We are less aware perhaps, of the other growing health concerns which have been spreading at the same time of the virus.
Male suicide rates have hit a two decade high.
Female suicide rates are the highest since 2014.
There is a worrying and continuing rise in suicide in young people; especially young women.
The statistics are undoubtedly bleak; another concern to add to the multitude we are balancing in these strange times. But we must not allow our compassion to wane, to feel we can’t confront the suicide rates as we fight covid. It is more vital that we keep speaking about suicide in our churches and our communities.
We have to keep talking about suicide – however uncomfortable it may make us feel – but in order for us to bring hope with our words, we need to get our terminology correct.
Suicide was decriminalised in 1962 – you can’t commit suicide – but thousands every year are still dying by suicide. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy – but it’s not a crime and our language has to reflect that.
Earlier in 2020, TV presenter Caroline Flack took her own life, and despite countless campaigns around the language of suicide and the way it is reported, many news outlets still used stigmatising phrases like ‘killed herself’ whilst reporting how she died citing the method. Speaking about suicide not only needs to use the right language – but it must adhere to the Samaritans guidelines so that the reporting of a suicide does not spark further suicides.
Among the worst phrases in the english language is ‘failed suicide attempt’ – it renders survival a failure – so using the phrase ‘survived suicide attempt’ is more compassionate and offers hope instead of stigma.
We need to speak of suicide – and then we need to respond with compassion by listening to the suffering, signposting them to mental health or support services and walking the long and winding road to healing, holding out hope until they can hope for themselves