By Olivia Kirtley.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and around the world people are raising awareness of suicide prevention. The theme for this year is ‘reaching out, saving lives’. But what is the reach of suicide, and what does reaching out do?
Every year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide around the world (WHO, 2014) and the impact of each death is huge as it does not just affect the person who dies; the ‘reach’ of that loss travels deep within the roots of their social network, to their friends, family and colleagues. Whilst there is very little research on the number of people who are affected by suicide (Cerel, Padgett, Conwell & Reed, 2009), the number of suicide survivors or suicide bereaved is estimated to be around 115 people for every individual who dies by suicide; a long way from the often quoted 6 people per suicide. A study by American Association of Suicidology President-Elect, Professor Julie Cerel, and colleagues found that 65% of a large sample of American college students reported having known someone who had attempted or died by suicide, and 17% reported knowing multiple people who had attempted or died by suicide (Cerel, Chandler Bolin & Moore, 2013). Cerel and her colleagues have worked tirelessly to empirically quantify how many people are left behind when someone takes their own life, and their research has spawned the #not6 twitter hashtag, raising awareness of the number of people affected by each suicide. But with such vast numbers of people affected by suicide, what can we do?
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Olivia Kirtley is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Center for Contextual Psychiatry at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium and Honorary Research Fellow in the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory at the University of Glasgow.