Today marks World Suicide Prevention Day, raising awareness in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent people taking their own lives.
Government statistics show that suicide rates have steadily increased since 2008, and this is reflected in our own figures. So far in 2016, 63 children and young people bereaved this way have been referred to us, an increase of 75% on the same period last year, making suicide one of the most common causes of death that we see.
“I support children and teenagers whose loved one has taken their own life,” said Adam White, Child Bereavement Support Worker.
“Often parents and carers tell me how they go through exhausting cycles of emotions like shock, disbelief, anger, guilt and deep sadness themselves. They may also have the involvement of the Coroner, possibly have to deal with the media and family issues and, of course, try their best to help their children.
“Some choose not to tell children the truth about how the person took their own life. This is completely understandable as it can be very difficult to know what’s best to do. I spend time talking through the situation with the parent or carer and always respect their choice. I’ve found that children have an often surprising ability to deal with the truth. For the parent or carer, it can be a huge relief not to have to watch what they are saying in case the children pick up on something, or worry that they will find out some other way.
“We use several books which can help. One, ‘Luna’s Red Hat’ is an illustrated book about a little girl whose Mum has taken her own life and shows children that they’re not alone in their experience.
“In one-to-one appointments, children and young people to talk about their memories and feelings. This is often very painful for them but being outside their family gives them an opportunity to offload their feelings to someone they don’t have to worry about upsetting.
“In time, we do activities to preserve their positive memories, like making a book of photos and memories and finding out more about their lives and interests. Some children worry that the person took their life because they’d misbehaved or they didn’t love them enough. It can help to reassure them that it wasn’t anyone’s fault and you can never really know what someone else is thinking. We also talk about ways that the person showed them that they loved them.
“We run youth clubs and residential weekends where children can meet each other – I’ve seen the effect of meeting someone their age who’s also been bereaved through suicide, and it can really help reduce the feelings of isolation and ‘being different’.
“I explain that their loved one will always be a part of their life, as will the feelings they have when they remember them. In many ways this is harder when the person took their own life, as they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye and have to try to come to terms with the fact they decided to die, in the state of mind they were in. However, I believe that by being there to listen and offer reassurance and dedicating time to talk about positive memories can help children to go on to lead a full, happy life and achieve their ambitions, while always keeping the person’s memory alive.”
Remember that #itsoktotalk and the more we can make sure we communicate and share memories and stories, the more we can help those who have been bereaved in this way.