The Blog of
Nadine Dorries
I Wish I'd Been Able to Spot the Signs of Suicide
Posted Tuesday, 10 September 2019 at 09:47

I’ve experienced first-hand the pain and stigma of suicide. The confusion, bewilderment and the enduring agony of why and if only. I know the sadness, the blame, the anger and the grief.

When my cousin took his own life, it was a bolt from the blue.

One evening at home with my husband and daughters, the phone rang at 7pm, interrupting us from our evening routine of bath and bedtime. This unusual disruption was the first clue something wasn’t right, but I completely missed it.

It was my cousin from Australia, who’d been my soulmate since childhood, who told me all his precious secrets. The cousin who, when my brother was tragically killed in a car crash, flew back to support us at the inquest. The cousin who was my husband’s best friend; their friendship made me smile almost as much as watching my children play.

So caught up with the excitement of the moment and the business of life, I failed completely to register that he was phoning me in the early hours of his morning. That was my second warning, and again I missed it.

We chatted away about family and his next visit to the UK. When the time came to say goodbye, he uttered the final clue, a phrase I have replayed a million times in my mind ever since… “You won’t ever forget me, will you?”

That night in the most shocking of circumstances my cousin took his own life. I was devastated.

We know suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50, with men three times more likely to die because of suicide than women. We know that men are less likely to seek help than women or to talk about their suicidal feelings.

Last week the Office for National Statistics published suicide figures for 2018, showing an increase in the number of suicides, mainly male suicides. But alarmingly, these numbers not only show that for the first time in five years, the suicide rate in the UK has increased, but that the number of females under 25 taking their own lives is at its highest since 1988.

Whenever a change in suicide rates occurs, the reasons are complex and will seldom be due to one factor alone, but I am not complacent that this is a real concern we desperately need to tackle.

The government’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy recognises the importance of reaching out to vulnerable people at risk and encourages them to seek help from organisations like the Samaritans, who are supported by the government, or from the growing number of community and local-based initiatives and provision.

Suicides are preventable — that’s why we are investing £25 million to support prevention efforts locally over three years and we are going further through the long term plan for the NHS by committing to suicide prevention funding for every area of the country by 2023-24.

In the same way we are now far more aware of how to identify when a person is having a stroke, I want to help people spot the warning signs ahead of a potential suicide, hopefully saving lives in the process.

If we all knew what to look out for, how to intervene and signpost someone in need to vital, life-saving support, we could make a real difference.

To help us achieve our goal, we are giving up to £2 million to the Zero Suicide Alliance, an initiative working across the NHS and local communities to increase suicide awareness and training.

If you notice a change in someone’s behaviour, it may be a sign they are struggling to cope. If a person you know suddenly becomes anxious, irritable, talks negatively about themselves or starts acting recklessly, is tearful or doesn’t want to do things they usually enjoy, these could all be signs they may not be OK.

But suicide is complex and emotions may present themselves differently from individual to individual. The signs are not always visible. However, it’s important that everyone feels confident in starting conversations with somebody they may be worried about.

My mission as minister for suicide prevention is to open everyone’s eyes to the danger of a life lost and the role they can play in helping to drive down the suicide rate. When we reach that point, no life will be wasted.

 
 
 
 
 

 
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