Written by UKCP member Paul Salvage
Although men are still three times more likely to kill themselves than women by Suicide, those numbers are slowly decreasing and there have been some strong campaigns to highlight and address the issues faced by men, (the campaign against living miserably to name but one).
The Samaritans 2017 Suicide statistics report, noted that Suicides amongst women have been slowly increasing since 2014. They caution against jumping to conclusions about the reasons for this, as it could be a natural fluctuation in the statistics. However, there have been a number of concerns raised recently by statistics regarding the number of young women who self-harm, and self-harm is a clear risk factor in potential suicidality.
There are many individual stress factors faced by young women around the desire for perfection, fuelled by unrealistic portrayals of life through social media, and that the lifestyles of our parents are for the first time in modern history less rather than more achievable.
Elizabeth Scowcroft, in a Telegraph article, notes that a lot of the issues faced by men can also be faced by women. Women might find it difficult to talk about their issues as well.
In my experience as a psychotherapist, although there are differences between the genders, usually cultural, there is much more that is similar than different, and women and young women in particular can also need a great deal of help in figuring out their emotional internal lives.
Alice Cole-King a psychiatrist who has held numerous posts working towards suicide prevention, says that in her experience a key component of helping clients is compassion. She says this is not just kindness, but the sensitivity to the distress of others and the motivation to do something about it. This involves the ability to tolerate distress and be empathic in the face of, what in the case of suicidality can be really high.
This is why I think psychotherapy can be so helpful. Psychotherapists are drawn to and want to work with peoples distress, and their unique training with its mandatory personal therapy, can make them well placed to offer this sensitivity in the face of this distress.
As a supervisor once said to me, all we can say, in essence, to the suicidal patient is, we cannot stop you taking your own life, but we can offer you a genuine space to talk and explore in a sensitive but honest way, what it is that is leading you to feel like this.
For help with suicidal thoughts:
In an emergency, call: 999
NHS (England), call: 111
NHS Direct (Wales), call: 0845 46 47
The Samaritans 24 hour helpline, call: 116 123
Paul Salvage is a UKCP Psychotherapist and works with clients on a wide range of issues.