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International drive to reduce mental health stigma

The stigma surrounding mental health problems must be broken down, psychiatrist leaders have emphasised on World Suicide Prevention Day.

The 11th annual event, sponsored by the World Health Organisation and International Association for Suicide Prevention, aims to draw attention to the global burden of suicidal behaviour and highlight prevention initiatives.

This year’s theme is the importance of overcoming stigma as a major barrier to suicide prevention.

CC psychiatry subcommittee acting chair Chris Clark said: ‘Suicide is a tragedy that touches many people at some point in their lives. In many cases, those who commit suicide have made contact with health services; in others the person avoids those services that may have helped.

‘In both these circumstances the common thread can be that of stigma around mental illness or suicidal feelings.

‘The negative views of mental health problems and illnesses stops thoughts of despair being discussed during consultations for fear of the reaction. It also stops sufferers making contact with services when they most need help.’


Raise awareness

He added: ‘World Suicide Prevention Day is aiming to raise awareness of the stigma around mental illness and its effect on those who are in despair and at risk of suicide, whether that stigma is due to lack of knowledge or discriminatory attitudes. All doctors should be doing all they can to address this problem in their day-to-day practice.’

Nearly one million people die through suicide each year worldwide — approximately one death every 40 seconds.

Suicide accounts for more than 6,000 deaths a year in the UK, three times the amount of those killed in road-traffic accidents.

North Wales consultant liaison psychiatrist and Royal College of Psychiatrists spokesperson Alys Cole-King said: ‘Suicidal thoughts usually start because people feel overwhelmed by their problems or their situation. This can happen to absolutely anyone.

‘People can find it hard to see a way out. It is not that they necessarily want their lives to end; it is just that they cannot cope with their emotional or physical pain any more.

‘We want to tackle stigma so people can feel free to access the support knowing that the people they approach will listen and not judge.’

Dr Cole-King is co-founder of the Connecting with People — a not-for-profit company that provides online resources and training in building emotional resilience, mental health and suicide awareness.

The day I found out that stigma can kill

Find out more about World Suicide Prevention Day

Find out more about Connecting with People