World Mental Health Day 2019: Let’s work together to Prevent Suicide!

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Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. That equates to approx. 3000 people every single day.

Join us, on 10 October 2019, in “40 seconds of action” to raise awareness of the scale of suicide around the world and the role that each of us can play to help prevent it.

World Mental Health Day, on 10 October, is a day for us to unite in our efforts to improve the mental health of people around the world. The theme selected for this year’s Day is suicide prevention.

This is an issue that is very close to my heart as I have had first-hand experience of finding myself in such deep mental and emotional pain I attempted to end my own life.

I have been working tirelessly for the last 16 years to improve the mental health landscape and in particular to better address the significant loss of life as a result of poor mental health. There are close to 800,000 deaths by suicide every year* and is the second leading cause of death for a 15-29 year old on planet Earth**. That’s a scary thought.

A human is almost ten times more likely to take their own life than to die as a result of war ***. Yet is this something that we are concerned about as a major societal issue? Our organisation is dealing with issues around suicide on almost daily basis for a significant number of our clients and it breaks my heart to think we aren’t doing anywhere enough to prevent this needless loss of life.

This is now my area of professional expertise however I don’t come from a background of academic education. My expertise is drawn from life experience.

My story

In 2003 my highly successful international recruitment business went into liquidation and in a few short months I ended up losing everything. Everything I defined myself by disintegrated overnight. I had a breakdown and in the depths of my despair I felt I had nothing left to live for. The emotional pain I was in was so great I would have sought any available solution to stop my suffering. Ending my own life seemed the best way out of my desperate situation. And I tried. Thankfully I failed and it actually ended up becoming a life defining moment that put me on the path to where I am today.

The reason I campaign on this issue is I know what it feels like to be in a place where you are ready to seek the ultimate permanent solution to a temporary problem. That was 16 years ago and the societal problem has got significantly worse since then. I only shared my ‘dark secret’ in public recently, and many people who know me don’t know that I had experienced this – I’m sure there are people who know me professionally that will be shocked to read this.

Attitudes towards mental ill-health

People that take their own life are often described as weak, stupid or selfish. After the death of Robin Williams, Henry Rollins wrote an article in the LA Weekly` where he described his feelings of confusion over how a parent could kill themselves – putting themselves before their duty to their own child. Rollins has since retracted this stance, but this highlights the lack of empathy and understanding to towards those who are suicidal.

Imagine you are in a burning house, the temperature is skyrocketing, it’s unbearable and you need to escape…that’s the life experience of someone who is suicidal.

The reason I am sharing this with you is that we need to get better at talking about and de-stigmatising mental health. We need to get more comfortable with the sentiment that it’s ‘ok to not be ok’. We need to make it easier for people to open up and express themselves emotionally – and for this not to be seen as a sign of weakness – it’s actually a sign of strength! My hope is that by sharing my story it will encourage others to come forward to share their experiences so we don’t need to feel like we are the only ones that have faced such darkness.

It’s important to note:

  • Suicides are preventable
  • One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds. A prior suicide attempt is an important risk factor for suicide
  • A prior suicide attempt is an important risk factor for suicide
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds
  • Suicide affects people of all age groups in all countries

Suicide Awareness

We and many other organisations will be making efforts to raise awareness of the scale of suicide around the world and the role that each of us can play to help prevent it.

On this year’s World Mental Health Day“, we are encouraging you to prepare to take “40 seconds of action” to help:

  • Improve awareness of the significance of suicide as a global public health problem;
  • Improve knowledge of what can be done to prevent suicide;
  • Reduce the stigma associated with suicide; and let people who are struggling know that they are not alone.

Put simply, this is an opportunity to show you care.

Everyone can take part in whichever way makes most sense to you and your organisation. Your activity may be private, for example, initiating a conversation with someone you are worried about or sharing a message of hope with someone who is struggling; or it may be public, for example posting a video message for local or national authorities about action you would like them to take on this issue (and sadly they not doing anywhere near enough).

Within your organisation we would encourage you to run a workshop or ‘Lunch and Learn’ session to destigmatise Stress and Mental Health. Running one of our ‘Excelling under Pressure’ sessions or ‘Mental Health Awareness’ workshops is a great way to create a safe space for people to discuss and explore this sensitive subject and to start to destigmatise the topic.

Here are some further suggestions to mark World Mental Health Day 2019:

  • If you are struggling, take 40 seconds to kick-start a conversation with someone you trust about how you are feeling.
  • If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, take 40 seconds to start a conversation and ask them how they are doing.
  • If you work in media, highlight the 40-second statistic in interviews, articles and blogposts.
  • If you work in the arts or on digital platforms, interrupt your production or broadcast to transmit a 40-second message about mental health or preventing suicide.
  • If you are an employer or manager, take 40 seconds to formulate a positive message of support to your employees about resources available to them in the workplace or local community in times of mental distress.

Additional ideas for the work place:

  • Organise a brief ‘town hall’ address
  • Arrange a workshop or ‘lunch and learn’ session
  • Send our at email campaign
  • Post something on the intranet
  • Set up an information/engagement stand in the canteen or common area
  • If you want your leaders to hear your request for action, record a 40-second audio clip or video telling them the action you want them to take on suicide prevention and mental health.
  • If you have a platform for communicating with a large audience (social media, television, radio), provide 40-second slots for sharing mental health stories and messages.
  • If you hold political office, communicate publicly about action you are taking to promote mental health and prevent suicide, highlighting the 40-second statistic

Life Changing Conversations Podcast

You may want to listen to a podcast I recorded with the amazing Jonny Benjamin MBE, mental health campaigner and author of best seller ‘Stranger on the Bridge’ talking about his experience of attempting to end his own life here on Soundcloud or on iTunes

To find out more about how we can help you diagnose, develop or maintain a mentally healthy workforce, or for more details of any of our programmes, please get in touch with us on or call 0203 142 8650.

Have a wonderful day!

Neil Shah

Chief De-Stressing Officer

The Stress Management Society

Tel: 020 3142 8650




*WHO Suicide statistics 2019

**WHO Suicide statistics 2019

***Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) & Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) 2016

`Henry Rollins Article