World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of suicide and to promote action to reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts. This year’s World Suicide Prevention Day focuses on ‘Creating Hope through Action’, which aims to inspire confidence that our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling.
Suicide can affect everyone. Each and every suicide is devastating and has a profound impact on those around them. Sadly, suicide rates in the UK have risen in recent years with men three times more likely to take their own lives than women. The highest suicide rate in the UK is amongst men aged 45 to 49, but suicide rates amongst young people have been increasing in recent years with the suicide rate for young females at its highest rate on record.
Stigma associated with mental health can be a significant barrier to help-seeking. Changing the narrative around suicide through the promotion of hope can help grow a more compassionate organisation where all those in need feel comfortable in coming forward to seek help. An array of help is available through the command chain, welfare teams, Human Resources staff, medical centres, SSAFA, Chaplains and through the RAF Mental Health Network. Sharing insights, stories, and experiences through both the RAF Mental Health Network and the RAF Time To Change Network can help inspire hope, in those who are struggling, that they can get through periods of distress or crisis. These networks, along with the roll-out of the new Thriving at Work training for all RAF personnel and Air Civil Servants, aim to reduce stigma, raise awareness, build resilience and support early help-seeking behaviour through a range of expert services.
The RAF continues to work with delivery owners to improve accessibility to specialist support and other welfare services through a variety of digital resources. The RAF Health and Wellbeing and the RAF Families Federation websites offer a range of tools, resources and useful links. The new Defence mental wellbeing toolkit, HeadFIT, is a useful digital source of support and information. SSAFA provides confidential and independent emotional and practical support to all RAF personnel and their families via its 24/7 helpline and station workers. The RAF Benevolent Fund offers free access to the mindfulness app Headspace and its Wellbeing Zone is available for all the RAF Family, covering topics such as resilience, nutrition, physical and mental health and self-help programmes. The RAF Benevolent Fund also provides a 24/7 emotional support helpline for all adults within the RAF Family, as well as its Listening and Counselling Service. In addition, the Royal Air Forces Association provides an online version of its ‘Finding It Tough’ mental wellbeing training called ‘mini-FIT’, which is available via Microsoft Teams online each Monday to Thursday afternoon.
By raising awareness, reducing the stigma around suicide and encouraging well-informed action, we can reduce instances of suicide. Through action, you can make a difference – as a friend, as a colleague, as a leader – we all can play a role in supporting those who feel vulnerable, are struggling, or are experiencing a crisis. Starting a conversation or actively listening to show people that you care about them can really help. By creating hope through action, we can show our support and signal to people that there is hope, that we care and that we have the time and space to listen and support them in their most difficult moments.