Suicide prevention is a collective endeavour not helped by toxic public discourse – Eleanor Bird

Suicide is still the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in Britain, but the charity Mental Health UK has also reported that suicides among teenage girls and young women have almost doubled in recent years.

Studies have shown suicide was the leading cause of death among children and young adults in Scotland from 2011 to 2020 and that Scots living in the most deprived areas were twice as likely to take their own lives as those in the most affluent.

Analysis of the Scottish suicide information database has provided vital detail of the circumstances and characteristics, as well as greater knowledge to help develop more effective preventative action in the future to ensure that everyone can access the right help and support whenever they need it.

This year’s theme for World Suicide Prevention Day is “creating hope through action” and if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s surely that hope comes from humanity.

Throughout the significant and often unprecedented challenges we’ve faced together in recent years, it’s been each other – human beings – who we’ve relied upon. These societal curveballs would have been hard enough to negotiate without our own personal battles which, as we know, none of us is without.

I saw Alan Cumming talk about his new memoir ‘Baggage’ at the Edinburgh Book Festival this year. He was natural and hilarious and human as ever, but most striking for me was at the end of the discussion when this big Hollywood star spoke of a concept that’s all-too-often considered small – kindness.

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There is no such thing as a small act of kindness, they’re momentous and powerful and can make all the difference. There aren’t nearly enough column inches dedicated to how much.

We should all reflect on how we can help people in our lives who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts (Picture: Nicolas Tucat/AFP via Getty Images)

I spoke at my last full council before standing down as a councillor about how toxic I felt our discourse had become on some of the most important issues in front of us, which deserved not only a respectful tone but a truly inclusive debate. I did this purely in an attempt to raise awareness, which I only see as a good thing that we should all be open to, whether we have something to learn or something to teach, as we all do.

This year’s Suicide Prevention campaign is simply asking us to reflect on how we can support the people in our lives who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or be at risk of suicide.

The campaign is clear that by encouraging understanding and sharing experiences, we can create a society where people have the confidence to take action and build hope for the future.

It is a call, if one was needed in these increasingly difficult times, to come together again – to check in, to look after, to consider – and I have no doubt that we will.

Mental health does not only exist individually but collectively and never more so than today has our responsibility to each other as human beings and humanity been clearer.

World Suicide Prevention Day, a global opportunity to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention, was held on September 10.