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Let’s talk about suicide, please

September is recognised as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in the United States by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Even though mental health organisation around the world have been making waves in increasing awareness about issues relating to mental illness, suicide is still largely regarding as a taboo subject of conversation.

On September 22, hundreds of Lithuanians laid in a square in Vilnius to illustrate the high suicide rate that has caused concern in the Baltic country. Lithuania has the highest suicide rate in Europe with 28.2 deaths per 100,000 people annually. This demonstration, in which about 800 people participated, was called by actor Arunas Sakalauskas, who has lost eight close friends to suicide.

According to the 2015 European health report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is ranked as the second leading cause of death after road traffic accidents both globally and in Europe among 15 to 29 year-olds. It is also the third highest cause of death among teens in the US aged 15 to 24, with LGBTI teens being five times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual teens.

Suicide rates are rising globally, with the WHO estimating that a person takes their own life every 40 seconds. As with other illness or states of mind, suicide does not discriminate and occurs in low, middle and high-income countries. Even though suicide has been closely linked with mental health issues in high-income countries, the WHO argues that:

“many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness”.

Suicide in Malta

Malta has a relatively low suicide rate when compared to other European countries. For 2012, no suicides were recorded in females, while only 9.2 suicides per 100,000 individuals were recorded in males. This is much smaller compared to the European average of 4.8 for females and 21.3 in males.

Despite this, Malta still lacks a proper National suicide prevention strategy, as echoed by psychiatrist Mark Xuereb in a 2014 article. As argued in this article, not speaking about suicide puts the relatives and friends of the victims in a precarious state where they have to spend their lives asking questions and dealing with feelings of anger, grief and guilt.

There is also a significant amount of stigma, as society would label the victims and their relatives, making the latter even more evasive of the topic. Compare this to the death of a loved one as a result of an illness or accident, and how much more ’embracing’ society is.

It is very likely that you have lost someone to suicide, or that you know someone who has not disclosed that they too have lost a loved one to suicide. If you find yourself in this situation, do yourself a favour and speak about it!

The biggest tragedy in suicide is that it is preventable. You can actually save the life of a person contemplating suicide by simply being there for them. If you know someone that is going through a hard time, is suffering from depression or other mental illnesses, or is feeling lonely, reach out to them and be a friend!

I don’t want to a ‘downer’ with this post, but I recently lost someone to suicide, and I would really like to talk about.

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If you are contemplating suicide, or know someone that is, contact the National Helpline 179, a 24-hour supportline run by Agenzija Appogg. For further information and guidance, contact the Richmond Foundation – +356 21 224580

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