If you were suddenly given a powerful tool, a magic power lets say, which enabled you to prevent hundreds of deaths from taking place each year – would you not want to use it? If you could heal the sick and save the lives of thousands of people – would you not want to do this?
Yet we all already have this magical power and none of us are using it – partly because we just don’t know how powerful it is and partly because we live in a culture where using it isn’t normal.
People with mental health conditions are 3 times more likely to die prematurely (see the evidence base here). In the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged between 29 and 50. Yet deaths resulting from poor mental health are mostly preventable. Most mental health conditions can be avoided entirely if individuals are given appropriate support, tools and resources.
Whether someone with a mental illness turns to substance abuse, neglects their physical health or takes their own life, mental disorders are a serious threat to an individual’s life. The World Health Organisation has highlighted that premature mortality amongst those with mental health conditions is a matter which should be addressed with urgency.
So what should we as individuals be doing about this? Encouraging more open conversations about people’s mental health could prevent many premature deaths. For many contemplating suicide, someone asking them “are you okay” is often enough to encourage them to re-think their decision to end their life. Those who are suicidal usually do not want to die – they only want to find a way for the thoughts they are dealing with and the pain they are experiencing to stop – and ending their life is the only option they can find. However, with appropriate support, help or just someone there to listen, someone suicidal can find alternative ways to alleviate their pain.
Nobody deserves to die just because there was nobody there to listen. Let’s start normalising having conversations about mental health, so that anyone unwell can get the support, help and resources that they need.