As it’s World Suicide Prevention Day, we have taken the opportunity to learn a bit more about how we can support ourselves and those around us. We feel having conversations like these are vital to breaking down stigmas around suicide and keeping the topic in the open.
We were lucky enough to have a chat with former professional footballer and mental health consultant, David Cotterill, about the topic of suicide and how to approach such a sensitive subject.
Cotterill battled with mental health issues throughout most of his career. Now retired and recovered, he believes more could have been done to help him overcome his issues while still a player. Through the David Cotterill Foundation, he aims to educate and inspire communities to speak up, support each other and take action.
“It’s my personal mission to help everyone realise that it’s braver to talk than to suffer in silence” – David Cotterill
Here’s our Q&A about the topic of suicide and different ways we can help ourselves and others around us.
Q: How do I know if I should be reaching out for support?
A: If you are feeling down, sad, very confused, feeling lonely… if the smallest tasks feel so hard – all that could be early signs.
Q: Many people don’t always realise they need support until it’s too late, how can I encourage people to ask for help?
A: You can make them aware of what support is out there. More often than not, people prefer to speak to strangers as they feel people closest to them might judge and think they are a failure.
Q: How can I support my friends?
A: You can support your friends by letting them know you are there for them. It’s important to ask them how they are more than once, too, because more often than not, they may say ‘I’m OK’ when really they aren’t. The only thing we can do is help them save themselves as, ultimately, it comes down to us as individuals to want it for ourselves. Point them toward the help of professionals, available GPs, therapists… try to get them to have self-care too for themselves.
Q: What should I do if I don’t feel I will be able to support my friend?
A: Point them to professional people, call Samaritans, people like that, to ask what you should do if you are concerned for a friend.
Q: How can you tell if someone is suicidal without them saying it themselves?
A: A change in their personality – if they go really quiet or things change. I also started drinking more so I didn’t feel lonely. Signs like that will help you identify. For me, nothing changed because I wore different masks and I didn’t let anyone know.
Q: What should I do if my friend tells me they are suicidal?
A: Same as I mentioned above – I would recommend contacting the police, an ambulance or Samaritans.
Q: How can I raise awareness to those around me about suicide without creating a platform for “suicide contagion”?
A: Gently bring it to the table by talking about it so it all becomes a natural conversation.
Q: How do I know what to say to someone who is suicidal?
A: Ask them if they need help and assure them you will be there for them. Let them know they aren’t alone and – no matter what – you can always get out of the way they are feeling: “it’s a bad time, not a bad life”.
Q: How do I get support if I’m helping someone else?
A: There is a very high percentage where carers become depressed and lonely from looking after others. So again, always maintain your self-care first. In order to look after others, you must love yourself first. My foundation supports in this case, and other charities should, so if you ever become stuck or in trouble contact us at any time.
Q: How can I help advocate men’s mental health?
A: Men’s mental health is getting worse, as I posted on my social media platforms the other day. So keep banging on about it and reiterate that it’s OK to not be OK… it’s not a weakness.
Q: What can we do to rid the stigma around men and mental health?
A: By making it a normal conversation about mental health. We all have mental health, we just don’t all have a mental illness. We go to the gym to maintain a certain body type, but it’s also incredibly important that we maintain a level of self-care and look after ourselves.
Q: How should we deal with children and mental health?
A: Children are a big one because it’s about your upbringing. I believe our parents and how we are looked after does, at times, have an effect. Before we reach the age of 16, we already have developed 70 percent of our mental health problems. Again, we can help children by educating and letting them know they aren’t alone and to contact relevant professionals.
Q: How do I deal with losing someone to suicide?
A: Don’t blame yourself, because a lot of people do. We can all say we should do this or do that or we should have. We can only control the now.
Q: How do I support someone who has lost someone to suicide?
A: I’ve lost a few friends to suicide. I look out for people so they don’t follow in the same footsteps, and try to be there for them and care for them as much as possible.
Q: How can I open a constructive conversation about suicide?
A: Again if you are talking about it then make sure you have your view and have your opinion – but try to back it up with knowledge and research so you know what you’re talking about. We all have our different views on things – it’s the same for mental illnesses.
Q: What should someone who is having suicidal thoughts do?
A: Contact a professional and seek help immediately because (talking from experience) letting it build up over time is a nightmare. It’s like having a cut: the sooner we act on it, the sooner it gets better. For me, mental health-wise I will always have problems, it’s about staying ahead of the illness with a routine and having self-care. I try not to overthink things or dwell on things otherwise I overthink and it’s not good creating scenarios that don’t even exist. Don’t believe everything you think.
Support for anyone in distress or at risk of suicide
CALL: 116 123
AIM TO BRING DOWN SUICIDE RATES AMONG MEN AGED 15-35
CALL: 0800 58 58 58
TEXT SERVICE FOR ANYONE IN A CRISIS
SUICIDE PREVENTION TEAM IN BRISTOL
CALL: 0800 689 5652