World Suicide Prevention Day 2021: Creating hope through action
Explore the complexity of ‘hope’ on World Suicide Prevention Day 2021
The international theme for World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 was ‘Creating hope through action’. This year our project team wanted to focus on exploring the rich and complicated idea of ‘hope’ in suicide prevention.
We asked our network of members, including people with lived experience, to share their thoughts and feelings about hope. Individuals talked about what hope means to them, what feelings it brings up and what they hold on to when they are not feeling hope. Our organisational members told us about how they help build hope among the people they work with or support.
We received a huge range of responses which collectively demonstrate the complexities around the concept of hope in suicide prevention.
You can view our collection of short videos, writings and photos about hope on our ‘Creating hope through action’ Miro board here.
Below are more in-depth pieces, both personal reflections on hope from people with lived experience of suicide, and examples of hope-building work from organisations working in suicide prevention.
- False Hopes and High Hopes: a personal reflection, Emma, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer
- Andy’s Man Club: inspiring hope among men
- A personal reflection on hope
- A personal reflection on hope, Penny, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer
- Greater Manchester Probation Service: suicide prevention, training and hope
- A personal reflection on hope, Katherine, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer
- Calderdale and Kirklees Recovery and Wellbeing College
- A personal reflection on hope, Dennis, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer
- Project ; by Jo G
- A perspective from Amy, Samaritans volunteer, Glasgow
- Thank you to our project team
False Hopes and High Hopes: a personal reflection, Emma, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer
“Overall, I’m hopeful because talking about suicide prevention is something that we can all do. Talking about suicide saved my life, and that gives me hope.”
In terms of suicide prevention, the word hope brings up a mixture of thoughts and emotions for me. As someone who, over a decade ago now, survived several attempts to take my own life, I have high hopes that I will never make another attempt. I’ve gradually been able to open up about my suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and although I still experience suicidal thoughts to this day, I’m able to share these with my closest confidants and, as a result, I’ve so far refrained from acting on them. This gives me high hopes for suicide prevention as I’m ‘living proof’ that suicide can be prevented. If you saw my history of suicidal thoughts and behaviours, you’d probably think that I wasn’t capable of working full-time, of living independently, and of participating in plenty of hobbies and volunteering too.
As great as this all sounds, I know that I still experience suicidal thoughts and when these get really bad and persistent, I need a lot of emotional support from my closest confidant and I feel very guilty about that. I feel guilt both in terms of taking up their time and in terms of giving ‘false hope’ of my ‘recovery’ from suicidal behaviours to the outside word. I’m a long-term single person; I do feel lonely and isolated sometimes, and every day is hard work for me to keep as mentally well as possible, so I worry a lot about giving false hope.
I also have no idea if I will at some point die by suicide as I can’t predict my future, and I do worry about being a hypocrite should the very worst happen. That said, I’m a million miles ahead of where I was at my most suicidal and I haven’t made an attempt to take my life for over 12 years now. This fact alone gives me great hope for my future and for the future of other people who experience suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and I believe that suicide is preventable.
I have hope that more people will be able to talk openly about suicidal thoughts and behaviours – be it their own or someone they are concerned about, as I believe that this is key to reducing deaths by suicide. Of course, it is not as simple as this, else we wouldn’t have so many suicides as we do; talking by itself won’t fix broken marriages, unemployment, a history of trauma, or many of the other risk factors linked to suicide, but for me talking has massively helped to reduce my own suicide risk. Overall, I’m hopeful because talking about suicide prevention is something that we can all do. Talking about suicide saved my life, and that gives me hope.
Andy’s Man Club: inspiring hope among men
“When a man opens up about a problem that has robbed him of all optimism and his peers can relate to him and offer him an ear and support, hope can be re-established.”
Hope is in many ways the cornerstone of Andy’s Man Club and what it is we do.
When people contemplate taking their own lives or when they suffer from mental health issues it can quite often be a loss of hope that takes them to the edge. At Andy’s Man Club, our ethos has always been to bring hope to people when all hope is lost by helping people to help themselves. Hope in its most basic form is the feeling that things can get better, and that tomorrow is going to be better than today.
When men attend our Monday night sessions across the country, opening up about problems and issues can be refreshing in that it helps build hope back up, when a man opens up about a problem that has robbed him of all optimism and his peers can relate to him and offer him an ear and support, hope can be re-established. One message we consistently put out on Social Media and in our groups is “Keep Trying,” you never know when your dark days will become sunny ones again and every storm will pass.
Watch this video on how Andy’s Man Club was created and how it is bringing hope to men: Andy’s Man Club – A Place Where It’s Okay To Talk
A personal reflection on hope
“It’s not always easy, particularly if you feel you reached a point where hope has dissolved and lost its past meaning. So, I do a few things when I’m not feeling hope which helps me turn that corner and starts chipping away at that dark cloud overhead.”
Hope is such an important area to explore, I’m pleased it’s the focus for this theme as it’s the one thing that I tend to cling onto when at a low point in life. It’s not always easy, particularly if you feel you reached a point where hope has dissolved and lost its past meaning. So, I do a few things when I’m not feeling hope which helps me turn that corner and starts chipping away at that dark cloud overhead:
- I do some sort of exercise – however you’re feeling inside, this is something you CAN do and it will have a positive impact (however small) and energising the body will energise the brain
- Start to look at some simple causes for your current low point – lifestyle – lay off the booze for a while, eat something healthy, find some relaxation techniques to help you sleep better
- Reframe your problems and start looking at different avenues that could lead to the outcome you seek or alternatively take you somewhere new and exciting (great thing to do when you’re exercising)
- Talk to someone, even if you don’t feel you can share with family or friends, there is always someone to talk to, a number to call
A conscious effort to do all, or any of the above represents a positive step forward which will trigger feelings of hope once more
A personal reflection on hope, Penny, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer
“I have learned that hope can be very patient, and while its absence can feel dark and lonely, I don’t think it is ever really far away.”
I struggled with the concept of hope when my daughter died. More often than not, if asked about hope, my reply would describe ‘a temporary reprieve from hopelessness’. This was the best I could do. My default was hopelessness. My critical self would not allow compassion to get a word in edgeways, let alone introduce the possibility of hope joining in the conversation. The usual chatter between these two ‘friends’ had been replaced by a relentless and deafening monologue.
I have learned, however, that hope can be very patient, and while its absence can feel dark and lonely, I don’t think it is ever really far away, sometimes reappearing when least expected and in the most surprising ways.
Hope seemed to tap me gently on the shoulder one day, inviting my compassionate and critical ‘friends’ to a debate. It soon felt as though a new understanding had been reached, and hope was invited to stay.
It turns out that hope can also be very powerful. It wasn’t long before I began to see this in a much wider sense through collaboration with our local mental health Trust. Working together with passionate and committed healthcare professionals generated hope, and hope led to more action, its force creating ripples in all directions.
I often draw from my well-being plan when I am struggling. I am a huge fan of science fiction and anything connected to space exploration. My mind seems to calm when I am immersed in these hobbies and distractions. The power of hope makes me think of the short bursts of a rocket engine needed to create the thrust which propels a spacecraft in different directions on new journeys of discovery. How docking with the International Space Station, where collaboration exists with no boundaries, provides access to a safe space where the astronauts share, research and work together for a better future. At this point, I am tempted to continue with ‘to boldly go’, but you might stop reading!
While I can still experience feelings of hopelessness, a gentle and compassionate voice now reassures me that this will be temporary. I sense that a shift in thinking is slowly occurring where hopelessness is no longer the default. Wishing for a change in the way I feel has gradually transitioned to believing that a change will happen. Discovering and being part of the actions of a wider movement have shown me that collective hope is indeed a powerful force and binds us together.
I recently had the privilege of taking part in Lived Experience training with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance. The diverse group of truly inspiring, insightful and compassionate people I met through this training symbolises everything I now imagine when I think of hope. For once, both my compassionate and critical ‘friends’ are in complete agreement.
Thank you HOPE for tapping me on the shoulder.
Greater Manchester Probation Service: suicide prevention, training and hope
“Training is central to developing staff confidence and skills to engage in meaningful discussions about hope and suicide prevention.”
Individuals under probation supervision can struggle to feel a sense of hope and can experience a number of difficulties accessing support. Our work with victims of crime also has direct relevance, to ensure we identify the need for support and signpost people to appropriate services as required. Engaging effectively with people under supervision is important to helping develop feelings of hopefulness and a confidence and sense of safety to share difficult thoughts and feelings. Training is central to developing staff confidence and skills to engage in meaningful discussions about hope and suicide prevention, in addition to ensuring staff know how to access support and take care of themselves when engaging in this work, in recognition of the personal impact it can have. We are continuing to develop our knowledge and understanding, focussing on the need for kindness and compassion to support people in taking small steps towards feelings of hope.
A personal reflection on hope, Katherine, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer
“The first time I had hope – and truly knew what it meant – was when I talked to someone who had lived-experience of something similar to what I was facing.”
For me, hope is the tiniest chink of light, a fraction of a second in a long, dark day where the weight lifts and I can breathe.
At first, it’s fleeting, and so incredibly small – hardly noticeable. It grows exponentially each time it is reinforced; like walking through a wheat field over and over again, the path becomes clearer each time.
The first time I had hope – and truly knew what it meant – was when I talked to someone who had lived-experience of something similar to what I was facing. I had fought against “recovery”; that was too far away, too hard to reach. But hope, although unfamiliar, was within my grasp. And I couldn’t argue against the experiences of those who had gone before me, so hope stayed.
It leaves me sometimes, and the wheat field becomes a maze and I don’t know which way is out. The chink of light shrinks, for no particular reason. But I can never go back to that place that I was in before I first knew hope. I now know it exists and it will return, I just have to hold on until then.
Calderdale and Kirklees Recovery and Wellbeing College
Building a toolkit for wellbeing: “Adding to the scrapbook has become part of my self-care and I’m going to have to transfer it all into a bigger book soon!”
Our online ‘Wellbeing Toolkit course’ was designed and delivered by Marina, who started as a learner at the College and is now a volunteer. Marina wanted to share things that helped her on her own journey, and the course is designed to help people recognise the importance of practicing self-care, finding balance in their life and discovering their own personal wellness tools to help them live life well.
During the course, people explore the hierarchy of needs, look at positive and negative thoughts and their impact. They discuss simple tools and strategies to help people deal with the highs and lows of life. The course culminates in the development of people’s own personal wellbeing toolkit, so each learner is armed with their own unique activities to support positive mental wellbeing.
My Well-Being Toolkit
“I’m Jo, I have anxiety and depression – but it does not have me.
Earlier this year I took part in the ‘Wellbeing Toolkit’ blended learning course. From the moment the big envelope containing the course materials landed on my doormat I knew this was going to be no ordinary course.
My goals at the outset were to improve my self-confidence talking to new people and also to re-ignite my old creative spark. I’m happy to say I achieved those goals. Everyone was super friendly and supportive.
The course took place via MS Teams and also had a companion Facebook page where we could share our stories and show off our creative bits and pieces. We covered topics such as Self-Care, The Five Ways to Wellbeing, Positive and Negative Thoughts through to the Art of Acceptance. Every session gave me food for thought and prompted interesting, sometimes amusing discussions with my fellow learners. I found myself inspired to do my own further reading on subjects discussed which has helped me get some of my study mojo back.
One of the things that made the course so engaging and unique was creating our own personalised scrapbooks to use as a place to keep notes, photos, affirmations, inspirational cuttings from magazines, poems, song lyrics, anything in fact that would help during the grey days and bad times. Mine is filled with pasted in photos and pictures that bring a smile to my face, as well as lists of ideas for things to do to ground myself. Adding to the scrapbook has become part of my self-care and I’m going to have to transfer it all into a bigger book soon!
I would highly recommend this course to anyone feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the sound advice there is out there because having a physical place to put that info really does feel like putting away useful tools safely into your very own wellbeing toolkit.”
A personal reflection on hope, Dennis, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer
“The word ‘Hope’ to me, when it’s used when talking about mental illness, discounts all the hard work, perseverance that I have put into my recovery.”
The word ‘Hope’ to me, when it’s used when talking about mental illness, discounts all the hard work, perseverance that I have put into my recovery. It’s almost as if I shouldn’t have bothered with all the intense work it takes to get better by myself, my support workers, my psychotherapist, my psychologist, the months, years invested in getting my medications right, building my life back up, the learning of how to communicate again, how to socialise, being part of my community again, if I just had hope, that would have been enough. Well, it isn’t. Well, not for me.
Hope’ doesn’t save lives, money does through investments into good, accessible services which support us in becoming well and reaching our full potential, making a society that is free of stigma and discrimination. ‘Hoping’ for it won’t make it a reality, ‘WE’ make it a reality.
Project ; by Jo G
“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
Hi, my name is Jo and I have attempted to take my own life; this is my message of hope.
Weird way to start a conversation about recovery, right? In order to get to grips with such an important subject like suicide I believe we need to embrace how uncomfortable it is and be honest with each other.
In all my interactions with people, be it professionals in health or my peers, not a single person has ever asked me why I wanted to die. Isn’t that astounding? I’m often given a teary look and told that I am ‘inspirational’ or the ever popular ‘you’ve got so much to give to this world’ – please don’t misunderstand me, I appreciate the sentiment of every person that has shown me compassion on my journey – I’m simply trying to highlight how the topic of suicide is never truly addressed within communities.
A good example of this disconnect is a movement like Project; (often referred to as the semicolon project) The movement was born out of remembrance of someone who eventually lost their own fight with their mental health battles, the simple yet powerful premise is this –
“a semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
Many of those who have attempted to end their life, or have been impacted by suicide in some way, have chosen to use the symbol as the basis of a tattoo. This permanent reminder of why you are still here, the power of your choice and defiance against the invisible villain that is mental health…well it’s more than a tattoo, it is an unapologetic middle finger to the trauma you’ve endured, a promise to yourself to show up to your own life.
I have a semi colon tattoo, mine is surrounded in watercolour as a nod to creativity’s role in my recovery, my husband calls it my splodge.
I never used to like that nickname, but I see how relevant it is now.
Life, like art, is messy.
Just like art we can choose to focus on the brilliance and beauty while acknowledging the mistakes and patience it takes to create.
A perspective from Amy, Samaritans volunteer, Glasgow
“When life feels bleak, it needs help to grow. Like the many new house plants I have acquired over lockdown, I am learning to be the gardener of my hope.”
Amy has been a volunteer at Samaritans Glasgow branch since 2014. Amy works as a freelance actor, writer and facilitator who works mostly in theatre and with community groups across Glasgow. She also loves the great outdoors: hiking, running, cycling, climbing and discovering new wild swimming spots. She said:
“Hope has been a tricky thing to hold onto these past 18 months. I feel lucky that I’ve had enough love and support from friends and family to survive this time with my hope mostly intact. Having continued as a listening volunteer at the Glasgow branch of Samaritans throughout the pandemic I know that this isn’t the case for everyone. When you’re in the middle of a mental health crisis or struggling emotionally, or with a personal crisis and can’t even see the horizon, it can be hard to take positive steps to keep your outlook hopeful and forward-focused.
I have been in that hopeless place. I have had thoughts of suicide because going forward felt futile. I could hear and understand received wisdom: ‘Things will get better’ and ‘This too shall pass’, but my whole being fought against believing it. My situation felt permanent. For me, hope was a thing for other, normal, people.
There is now some distance between me and that particularly dark time but I am far from complacent. I have learned that hope is a thing to cultivate. When life feels bleak, it needs help to grow. Like the many new house plants I have acquired over lockdown, I am learning to be the gardener of my hope. Tending it might mean different things for different people but for me, a healthy hope plant is fed with self kindness and compassion. In other words, I give myself a break, I watch my favourite Netflix show, I go for a walk in the sunshine (even if I have a deadline), I arrange to meet a friend, I buy the fancy biscuits, and try to let go of the guilt. And I repeat until life has begun to bloom again.”
Thank you to our project team
The NSPA would like to give particular thanks to our project team and their organisations: Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, National Probation Service, NHS Business Services Authority, Nightline Association, Samaritans, STORM Skills Training, Catherine Astey, Graeme Blair, Ben Perkins and our Lived Experience Influencers.