World Suicide Prevention Day 2022: Creating hope through action
Explore the actions – big and small – that can create hope on World Suicide Prevention Day 2022
Once again this year, the international theme for World Suicide Prevention Day 2022 is ‘Creating hope through action’. This builds on last year where we explored the rich and complicated idea of ‘hope’ in suicide prevention.
This year our team wanted to explore more about the actions that can create hope. We believe that actions, however small, can create hope. We respect that hope can be complex and personal and that people have different views of what hope means, and different relationships to it. Some find it inspiring; others can feel isolated and unheard by a pressure to feel hopeful.
We all know that stigma is a major barrier to help-seeking and we can change the narrative if we work together and listen to those with lived experience. So we asked our network of members, including people with lived experience, to share their thoughts and feelings on what ‘creating hope through action’ means to them. Individuals talked about actions that give them hope, and what they need from others when they are not feeling hopeful. Our organisational members told us about the direct actions they are taking to build hope among the people they work with or support.
We received a huge range of responses which collectively demonstrate that there is no one path to hope in suicide prevention, but that by listening to each other, with kindness and empathy, we can take collective action to prevent suicide.
You can view our collection of short videos, songs, thoughts and photos about hope on our ‘Creating hope through action’ Miro board here.
Below are some in-depth pieces, both personal reflections and examples of hope-building actions from organisations working in suicide prevention.
- Veterans supporting veterans: Phoenix Heroes tackling PTSD through fishing
- Everton in the Community: The People’s place new hub of hope
- Playing the Ukelele: Actions that Frank has taken since his son died by suicide
- Hope for conversation: a personal reflection from Lesley who was bereaved by suicide
- Gambling with Lives: changing the narrative on gambling addiction & suicide risk
- Rosie’s personal reflection: actions than help me find hope and help others
- Finding the actions that work for you: a personal reflection from Katie
- Talking to others about suicidal thoughts: a personal reflection from Emma, NSPA lived experience influencer
- Hope without investment is a fairy story: a reflection from Hollie, who has been bereaved by suicide
- RunningSpace: Beating suicide one step at a time
- Thank you to our team
Veterans supporting veterans: Phoenix Heroes tackling PTSD through fishing
“We believe that giving someone a purpose and focus in life creates a vision of hope“
We have created hope through action by building one of the fastest growing veteran communities in the UK that holds regular fishing events around the UK. The fishing side to us is a door opener, addressing loneliness, isolation, mental health difficulties and a feeling of belonging, it is within this community that our core support services are delivered to those who need additional help.
Many people at some point in their lives experience a trauma, sometimes this can have a huge impact on them and their families where they find themselves in a desperate situation with a feeling of being lost. It is hope that can give someone that urge to carry on.
Within this community a natural peer support environment has formed that is strong. We believe that giving someone a purpose and focus in life creates a vision of hope; regular communication and trust is important in everything that we do.
We have created something very special here and we want to share it with everyone, we are veterans supporting veterans and together we are stronger!
Watch their video here
Everton in the Community: The People’s Place hub of hope
Everton in the Community is one of the UK’s top sporting charities and is considered one of the Premier League’s leading community schemes.
Creating hope continues to be a key focus of Everton in the Community, throughout its 40+ programmes. The charity’s dedicated staff promote positive mental and physical health and wellbeing across all programmes, as well as offering tailored support and advice to participants.
In late 2022, Everton in the Community will open its doors to a purpose-built mental health and wellbeing hub. The People’s Place will promote positive mental health and suicide prevention through an extensive range of evidence-based provision. As the first of its kind attached to a Premier League Club, the dedicated hub will provide a range of wellbeing activities – with a layer of professional care from Health and Wellbeing Practitioners, GPs and Mental Health Professionals – alongside educational and employment support.
Playing the Ukelele: Actions that Frank has taken since his son died by suicide
“I support myself and other bereaved folk by singing & playing the ukulele at fundraising events ”
My son Alan died by suicide on 11th June 2015.
Since then, I have been motivated to campaign and fundraise for Suicide Prevention charities.
John Ruskin said that what we say is of no consequence. It is what we DO that is important.
I support myself and other bereaved folk by singing and playing the ukulele at fundraising events. This has included online Zoom meetings of my local suicide bereavement group, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide in Cumbria and South Scotland.
I frequently submit articles for local and national newspapers. I speak to camera on BBC and ITV local news broadcasts. I lobby my MP and MSP who provide support through political channels.
There is always hope.
Hope for Conversation: A personal reflection from Lesley, who was bereaved by suicide
“My hope now is in the conversation. There is space to say the word suicide and be honest about how you are feeling.“
When my brother took his own life 25 years ago this month, it was at a time when the conversation about suicide and mental health was minimal. He was just 39; he made so many threats (some verbal, some physical) to harm himself over the nine months before he died, but the response from police, doctors, mental health workers was that people who talk about it, don’t go through with it. He showed time and time again that he felt hopeless and overwhelmed by the sudden and devastating direction his life had taken. He felt desperate, lonely and let down. So did I. He leant on me, and I couldn’t find a way to help him.
My brother died just nine days before Princess Diana; no one really talked to my family, friends didn’t know what to say and it was the loneliest, emptiest space for us. Her death seemed to unlock our tears, we felt permission to cry – of course for her but for my brother and the tragedy of his early needless death too.
There is hope for families who experience this kind of loss; maybe they can be honest and share what has happened to their loved one and not hide it or feel guilt, shame or stigma.
Let’s keep the conversation going, let’s ensure we take notice of those who speak of self-harm or loss of hope, let’s not shy away from the word suicide, let’s listen and be kind.
Gambling with Lives: changing the narrative on gambling addition & suicide risk
“We believe hope can be as simple as someone realising they’re not to blame for being addicted to gambling.”
Gambling with Lives is a charity founded in 2018 by families bereaved by gambling-related suicides and has helped to drive forward the case for reform. Thanks largely to the efforts of the Gambling with Lives bereaved families, the link between gambling disorder and suicide is now widely recognised.
Gambling with Lives provides hope through action: enabling bereaved families to advocate to change the narrative around gambling addiction, to campaign for legislative change, and raise awareness about the mental health harms and high suicide risk of gambling disorder to start life-changing conversations. We also provide support to enable families to speak out at an inquest and post inquest investigations of the gambling that contributed to the death.
Our campaigns tell people it’s not their fault that they are suffering from a diagnosable psychiatric condition, and to restore hope that there is a way out. We’ve moved the conversation around gambling addiction away from financial losses to the more serious and widespread impacts on people’s mental health, including the high suicide risk.
Using independent research and lived experience, we provide the public with fuller information about gambling disorder to shift responsibility away from just individual responsibility. This includes highlighting the role that addictive products and harmful industry practices play in addiction, and the high suicide risk. We challenge the stereotype that people addicted to gambling are somehow weak, flawed, or vulnerable individuals, restoring hope through action.
Gambling with Lives families have attended events and debates at Westminster, have regularly appeared in high-profile media interviews, and have started petitions that received tens of thousands of signatories. They have met with government ministers, key MPs, and the Gambling Commission to make their voices heard.
Last year, we launched our ground-breaking education programme, which is aimed at preventing gambling harm in young people and ultimately saving lives.
We believe that hope comes in different shapes and sizes – it can be as simple as someone realising, they’re not to blame for being addicted to gambling, or as arduous as campaigning for life-saving regulation changes. We also believe that change is fundamental to hope – which is why it is the foundation of our work.
Rosie’s personal reflection: actions that help me find hope and help others
“Actions that help me are when someone listens with compassion & empathy and acknowledges loss of hope as a painful place to be.”
There have been many shocked responses to my experiences of losing my parents, even in today’s world. I used to feel very guilty and hid my negative feelings and put on my brave face.
It’s hardly surprising that if, as I did, you lost your parents due to suicide and attempted suicide as a young person that I still carried that pain. I had not been shown hope.
Amongst other things pain is triggered by lack of understanding. The stigma that went with my experiences as a young child and person has kept me from being able to share or clean out my wounds – my pain, so it festered away inside for many years, where I had learnt to shut it away in the darkness.
Thank goodness there is better understanding of brain development and how neglect, trauma and abuse can affect it now than there has been in past. But it still is not generally well understood.
Some of the things that have helped me to take action is recognising that my voice matters and I can use it to help others.
I keep a story about a child picking up starfish on a shore where a great number have been washed up and throwing them back in one by one. When an adult sees the child doing this they say, “but there are so many you can’t possibly make a difference”, and the child looks out at the star fish just thrown back to the sea and says, “it made a difference for that one”.
I am lucky enough to live close to the sea and find it most helpful to be able to walk along it regularly. I also joined a marine conservation charity and do regular litter picks that helps me feel I’m making a positive difference to a troubled world even if it feels hopeless sometimes.
I also find practices like yoga and Qi Gong help me immensely. Learning to breathe fully. In my 6th decade of life, I still hope for better understanding and for us all to take action to care for ourselves and our beautiful planet.
Finding the actions that work for you; a personal reflection from Katie, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer
Hope is the light when you feel darkness. Sometimes it can feel that hope is an expectation forced upon you. You’re told that there is light at the end of tunnel but your vision is impaired so you can’t see it. It’s okay to not feel hopeful for the future just as much as it’s okay to not be okay.
Hope is fluid, it changes all the time. Sometimes one feels it, other times we live in despair and darkness consumes us. There is no set path to finding hope but resilience and perseverance is what drives us to find the light when in our minds it’s gone out. Through the times of despair, we seek reassurance from others. We take up new adventures that create a better life for others because our own experiences in life can help change the world we live in.
Actions speak louder than words. The good we do in society gives hope for a better future. It gives individuals a sense of success in their own lives if they can give back to their communities. This might not be for everyone but that’s the point. It’s about finding what works for you as an individual. It’s your own journey be proud of that every single day no matter how small your leap is, whether that’s getting dressed, going for a walk, writing letters, holding up a sign. Every action you take shows optimism and courage to keep going and when you don’t feel you can fight you’re not alone. Seek help and lean on others because hope is all around us.
Hope without investment is a fairy story: a reflection from Hollie, who has been bereaved by suicide
“When hope is made an internal resource of the individual it can create an overwhelming pressure on that person to be hopeful. Hope doesn’t mean blind optimism for a ceaselessly sunlit future. But I feel like invoking hope asks for a certain sporting fairness. For hope to mean anything at all its horse has to occasionally come in.“
“Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.” My dad would trot out this line every time I wanted to dip into my children’s savings account for something idiotic like a plasma lamp or a yin-yang toe ring. His mam used to say it to him too.
After his suicide in August 2020 I was rifling through dad’s things and rattling around in the same case that contained his birth certificate I found a small piece of plastic tat. I emptied it into my hand: it was a figure of a mariner, classically outfitted in a beard and oilskins and smoking a pipe, which I had picked up, improbably, at a ‘ten items for 10p!!’ table in the last adrenaline gasps of a Blue Peter Bring and Buy Sale sometime in the mid-1990s. I got it for dad partly to score a point about my fiscal prudence, and partly because I had a dawning understanding of his peculiar interest in ‘the sea.’ His own father and grandfather had been merchant seamen out of the port of Grimsby and we’d grown up on the crook of the Humber estuary in nearby Cleethorpes. I couldn’t believe he had kept it all these years.
As a kid I always mistook Dad’s frugality for miserliness but beneath the surface of the water I didn’t see how fast his feet were peddling. For decades he did all the overtime he could get, always in service of a better future for me and my brother. At his funeral people lined up to tell me about his other kindnesses: the time he had patched up a neighbour’s fence after a storm blew it over, the time he switched bikes with a co-worker when she got a flat tyre and rode it home for her. Such generosity in action was, to him, instinctual. Days before he died, when the intention was surely germinating in his mind, he visited a friend in hospital to take her some sweets. In the mosaic of what makes up a person, any material generosity for which economic circumstances might allow doesn’t add up to all that much next to the stuff that matters: the discrete acts of goodness that people remember.
The theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day is ‘creating hope through action.’ Since dad died when I think about hope I get angry. Because hope doesn’t mean what it used to, or maybe it doesn’t mean what I thought it did. I can live today knowing of the slings and arrows that might be waiting for me tomorrow. I know more people I love will one day die: hope doesn’t mean blind optimism for a ceaselessly sunlit future. But I feel like invoking hope asks for a certain sporting fairness. For hope to mean anything at all its horse has to occasionally come in.
After his trawlerman father was lost at sea, Dad left school aged fourteen. He needed to help bring in some more of those pennies to his widowed mam and her four kids. There wasn’t time for grief, even if the 1970s had had anything to offer by way of childhood bereavement support. Instead the unprocessed ache was left to sink deep into the bones. Later it would periodically burst out like psychotrauma morgellons and eventually knit itself into a cloak of heavy depression. And through it all he worked and saved and worked and saved.
In the intervening years public health in the UK underwent a series of almost imperceptible nudges away from the collective and towards the individual. ‘Wellness’ has become a responsibility of the self, a personal virtue rather than something we might expect in return for our participation in society. At the same time a combination of chronic underfunding, service outsourcing, and education cutbacks has skeletonised our National Health Service in a generation. When dad needed to cash in on his social dividend, when he experienced peaks in the major depressive disorder that would distort his reason into episodes of psychosis and suicidal ideation, all that was left was a mirage.
How is a vulnerable person supposed to hold any hope in a system that tells them they are too unwell for any of the therapeutics available to their GP practice but not yet at the crisis needed to secure emergency intervention? And how could the ten-minute telephone consultation that dad had with his doctor on the day he died possibly have determined that with any certainty?
When hope is made an internal resource of the individual it can create an overwhelming pressure on that person to be hopeful, further stigmatising them when they inevitably fail.
Service gaps push monitoring of the suicidal onto families who are out of their depth, and when the worst happens they blame themselves. When essential services have a bottom line it is hard not to feel hopeless for the future of this potemkin NHS that at any time could blow over in a stiff wind.
Dad took his life weeks before his retirement. He took care of the pennies in the belief that the pounds would take care of themselves. He paid into national insurance for fifty years in good conscience and at the end of it he saw the best chance of a hopeful future was one that didn’t feature him.
I’ve spent the past year and a half writing a book about folklore and mourning rituals around death and suicide as a way to navigate the disorientaion of what is a particularly bewildering and often furious type of grief. It started as an escapist impulse, but it struck me recently that I was drawn to these tales because folk stories are a product of ordinary people interpreting the realities of their own lives. Often these lives are full of hardships. Some hardships are due to the caprice of nature, but others are plainly the result of structural inequality. It is in defiance of that injustice that such stories are passed down.
But I suspect I was drawn to them foremost because they usually have the satisfying ending that dad was denied. There is nothing more he could have done to ‘help himself.’ There is nothing more I could have done, though it has taken me two years to make myself believe that.
Access to healthcare is a moral imperative. There are hashtags, awareness campaigns, an increasing comprehension of trauma and complex psychiatric disorders, and the beginning of a reckoning of how we talk about these topics between ourselves. Dad was right on that, the pennies are important and they add up to a lot. But there is a gulf of difference between pennies and pounds, and without immediate and radical investment hope might as well be a fairy story.
The Bleeding Tree : A Pathway Through Grief Guided by Forests, Folk Tales and the Ritual Year by Hollie Starling will be published by Rider Books in April 2023, details for pre-order will be available on the Penguin website.
Talking to others about suicidal thoughts: a personal reflection from Emma, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer
“I have been more honest with myself about the severity of my poor mental health & reduced my self-stigma”
I feel as though I’ve undertaken action, some good, and some not so good, in the past year since writing my NSPA blog, ‘False Hopes and High Hopes’, as I try to keep myself as hopeful as possible whilst living with my suicidal thoughts.
Its nearly 14 years now since my last suicide attempt, but I do continue to experience suicidal thoughts on a regular basis, alongside living with daily poor mental health. Everyday feels like a conscious effort to keep myself as mentally well as possible and, at 41 years old, I’m not sure that my mental health will ever get ‘better’. However, I do feel more hopeful for my future than I ever have. This is partly due to many of the actions recently taken by me and some of the people closest to me.
This time last year, I had one confidante, a friend, with whom I shared my suicidal thoughts. Through their unconditional support, compassion, two-way communication, and non-judgmental approach, I have gained the confidence to actively be open with more people in my life about my experiences of suicidality. It hasn’t been easy and there have been plenty of ups and downs. However, my quality of life and hope for my future has drastically improved by taking the action to talk more openly about my poor mental health and suicidal thoughts. Key to this has also been the actions taken by those that I’ve confided in. They took the time to listen, to validate, and to discuss with me what actions might help keep me as well and hopeful, as possible.
It’s not possible for me to cover the full details in this short blog, but in summary I have been more honest with myself about the severity of my poor mental health. I have reduced my self-stigma, I have created a strong sense of wanting to keep myself as well possible, I have undertaken self-help, and I have taken steps to actively seek support.
One action I have taken is telling my employer, (when I’ve been well enough to) how my poor mental health and suicidal thoughts impact me at work, and asking for help with managing this. Previously I’d kept my thoughts dangerously hidden. It has been quite a journey and has required time, energy, compromise, vulnerability, trust, action and honesty on both sides, but I now have specific support for my mental health at work and this gives me a lot of hope for my future working life, and consequently for my life in general. Prevention and safety planning in all aspects of my life, not just at work, helps me feel more supported and safer from potentially acting on any thoughts of suicide.
I hope that I will continue to take action to be open and honest about what keeps me from acting on my suicidal thoughts, and I’m sharing my experiences with the wider hope of not just keeping myself safe from suicide, but that perhaps it may help to keep other people safe too. I appreciate that what works for me may not work for other people, so my hope right now is that more people take actions to have positive, honest, and safe conversations about suicide prevention so that we can all work together to prevent suicide.
RunningSpace: Beating suicide one step at a time
Jenny is a special lady, a qualified lawyer with a first-class degree. She also struggles with thoughts of suicide.
We ran together today – not a marathon, just few comfortable 60 seconds at a time. After the first few steps she smiled, and as we ran on, her joy and personality began to shine through.
Fuelled by faith, we champion life and beat suicide, one step at a time. Come and run with us, it might just change your life.
Watch their video here.
Thank you to our team
The NSPA would like to give particular thanks to the people – and their organisations – who have helped build this campaign: Greater Manchester Health and Care, Samaritans, Grassroots Suicide Prevention, Nuthatch Consultants and our Lived Experience Influencers.