In 2019, the number of people in England and Wales who died by their own hand was 5,691, 4,303 men and 1,388 women, the highest since 2000. These statistics tell only part of the story. Yes, 5,691 people have suffered totally avoidable deaths, but behind those figures lie stories of children losing parents, parents losing children, partners losing their soulmates, friends losing friends and workmates losing colleagues.
Some of the bereaved may move on and learn to cope – after all, what’s the alternative? – but many will find their lives will never be the same again. I lost a child in 1990 (to illness) and there’s no doubt that the tragedy changed my life and continues to cast a long shadow to this day.
To put these numbers into perspective, you may remember that, earlier this year, Leicester was put into special lockdown measures because of the city’s worryingly high incidences of Covid-19. The people of Leicester were frustrated but understood that the restrictions imposed by central government were essential in controlling the virus and keeping the death toll to an absolute minimum.
According to the Leicester City Council’s website, deaths in 2020 from Covid-19 up to and including 20th November numbered 398.
I know that the government has a lot on its plate right now, but if Whitehall can leap into action when faced with fewer than 400 deaths – sad as they are – I am forced to wonder why mental health services which, with more funding could reduce the number of suicide deaths, remain the poor relation in the NHS family.
It’s all very well to howl at the moon about these things, but actions speak louder than words, which is why I am honoured to have been appointed an Ambassador for the charity SOS Suicide of Silence. This wonderful organisation, set up by the barrister Michael Mansfield QC and his wife Yvette Greenway-Mansfield, was brought to my attention when I interviewed TV presenter Wendy Turner Webster who, alongside actor Maxine Peake, barrister Robert Rinder, actor Gary Webster, actor Hugh Quarshie and Lorraine Kelly, is also an Ambassador for the charity.
Watch my interview with Wendy here:
Incidences of suicide within the LGBTQ+ communities are higher than in the general population and it is this particularly worrying stat that I hope to address in my work with SOS Silence of Suicide. Following my appointment, Yvette issued the following statement:
“Yvette and Michael, founders of SOS Silence of Suicide realise that drivers to educate and change attitudes within communities and individuals can only come about when the conversations start.
SOS strive to eradicate shame, stigma and silence surrounding poor mental health and thoughts/acts of suicide.
We work with many groups who have individual, and collective, mental health vulnerabilities and are absolutely delighted that Rob Harkavy, a member of the LGBTQ+ press has joined us as an Ambassador. We very much want to learn from Rob the nature of the challenges members of the LGBTQ+ communities face and how they impact their mental wellbeing, leading to mental illness and thoughts and acts of suicide.
SOS would also like to help this specific community to help find resolutions to their challenges through education and conversation.
We look forward to having many discussions with Rob as to how we can best support LGBTQ+ members.”
How to help.
First off, pay a visit to the SOS Silence of Suicide website here.
If you live in the Midlands, From Friday 4 December, thanks to Next Plc, selected stores at Merry Hill, Leicester, Stratford Upon Avon, Leamington Spa, Coventry and Solihull Touchwood will be selling our stunning and lovingly designed SOS Angels pin badges on beautiful backing cards to encourage conversation, reduce stigma, shame and silence and raise funds.
If you’re unable to drop into any of the Next stores listed, you can still buy a fetching and stylish pin badge for just £4 for yourself or as a little bonus gift for family and friends this Christmas. Click here for the SOS Silence of Suicide online shop.
Keep up to date.
Visit the SOS Silence of Suicide news page here.
If you or someone you care about is struggling, call 0300 1020 505