As social workers, meeting and supporting those experiencing extreme emotional states is part of the job. In the broadest sense we exist to support families and individuals struggling to cope with day to day living. We must be sensitive and alert to all those we fear may be at risk of harming themselves - and possibly others.
We demonstrate this, in part, by promoting a sense of community. Indeed, this year’s theme for World Suicide Prevention Day is ‘connectedness.’ Always, we should be encouraging vulnerable people to make connections with local networks – people and places where support and friendly counsel are available.
For example, tea groups, art classes and gardening clubs are all simple, human antidotes to loneliness – opportunities to strike up conversations, establish friendships and perhaps gain new perspectives on problems and anxieties which at first seem insurmountable. Misery hates company – and company is the best deterrent.
It is also our duty to signpost access to psychological therapies and promote their effectiveness, especially amongst those groups most resistant to seeking help – I’m thinking primarily of the older generations who may find it difficult to admit to depression and other mental health ‘taboos’.
Social isolation, particularly among the elderly, is a major contributor to depression and the entrenchment of other mental health problems. It is also the reason depressive conditions are often diagnosed too late – either when the individual concerned has made an attempt on their life or sadly succeeded in this most extreme and tragic of actions.
I know how committed you all are to supporting those prone to suicidal thoughts as well as those left devastated by the loss of a friend or loved one who felt the only option was to take their own life.
On this and every other day, let us be good listeners, strive to spot the warning signs and in doing so help create supportive communities in which people can live happier, healthier lives.
Further information and support - if you need it - for you, your friends and family