Unless you personally suffer feeling suicidal or closely know someone who does, it is likely that your awareness and understanding about suicide is limited to misconceptions and common myths…
For example, one of the common misconceptions is that the suicide rates are very high in Nordic countries due to long and dark winter months and limited exposure to sun… Or that Japan has the highest rates because of their ancient seppuku ritual where one would choose death instead of dishonour and disrepute…
The truth is that the country with the highest suicide rate in the world is Lithuania. Small, post-soviet state in a Baltic region, known for the stunning beauty of its nature, rich culture and history, fast economic growth and technological innovation, one of the best internet speeds in the world and largest 4G coverage in Europe (1), fierce religion of basketball, bland food of many dishes creatively made out of potato and pork, the oldest Sanskrit-derived living language, and one of the highest alcohol consumption rates…
I know, because that’s where I come from. Every other year I find out about yet another person I know personally who committed suicide… My uncle, my classmate, my teacher, three neighbours living in the same street where I grew up, and several other little-known people whose paths crossed mine some time ago… According to Worlds Health Organisation 2016 data, Lithuania’s suicide rate is 31.9 deaths per 100,000, since 2012 beating its’ previous ‘top contestants’ Russia and Guyana. For comparison, the figure for the UK is 8.9, US 15.3, China 9.7, Japan 18.5, Germany 13.6 and India 16.3. (You can find the full WHO data here.)
That’s why the issue of suicide is very close to my heart and I have spent many years volunteering my time for Maytree charity who supports suicidal individuals and their families. My journey into consulting, training and coaching also first started with therapeutic work, and to this day I continue to support suicidal, depressed, anxious, and homeless individuals. For every new corporate client, I donate a session to those individuals who cannot afford to help themselves…
Suicide rates in the UK have also been increasing since 2009, yet it dropped again in the last two years. In 2012, suicide was the main cause of death for young people, as well the main cause of death for men over 40. (2)
The awareness about topics of suicide and mental health are increasing slowly, but it is still far from being one that is open for discussion. It is still hidden, stigmatised topic, especially for those experiencing it – only 27% of people who committed suicide between 2005 and 2015 have attempted to contact someone for help (2). Often people don’t know how to respond when someone shares their depressive feelings with them, and often says or does things that are detrimental for the wellbeing of the vulnerable person, so I have recorded a short video with do’s and don’ts – you can watch it on my IGTV or YouTube channel.
There are many socio-cultural and situational factors that increase the risk of suicide, such as unemployment, history of trauma and abuse, social isolation or family breakdown, poverty, drug and alcohol misuse, and depressive mental health disorders. However, I have worked with many people who have experienced several of those factors, yet do not feel suicidal, depressed, or anxious… so what makes the difference?
The difference is not in what happens to us, but in our mental ability and resilience to take different learnings out of our experiences.
The same thing might happen to two people, and one might end up suicidal and depressed, while the other might thrive with the challenge, turning pain and struggles into new opportunities, creating inspiration for others and advancing personal development and growth.
This poignant question of what makes the difference between those who fail and those who thrive under the same conditions has been my topic of research for many years. The complexity of answers that I find in psychology, neuroscience, behavioural science and neurobiology help to explain many factors that result in shaping our character, habits and behaviours, physical and mental health, as well as the level of success that individuals are able to create in their lives. Today I use these insights of the ongoing research in my therapy and coaching for individuals, as well as corporate consulting work.
I believe that the problem lies in our human ignorance about how our minds and brains work, and how we are shaped into who we are by our experiences, interactions and external environment. Therefore my work is based on building that understanding and how to use it to build more resilience to stresses and pressures of the modern business environment, as well as utilising the insights about changes and challenges for positive development and growth. The ultimate goal is to increase leadership potential to enable sustainable success and future growth of the organisation and to help the most vulnerable individuals to successfully integrate back into the workforce.
The problem lies in our human ignorance about how our minds and brains work, and how we are shaped into who we are by our experiences, interactions and external environment.
Within the organisations I work with, I am often asked to present about the topic of stress and how to create the culture of wellbeing amongst employees that can prevent costly stress-related absences. Many wellbeing products and services can also be classed as a tax-free employee benefit if listed under on-site recreation or welfare counselling, making it a worthy investment. If you would like to book a FREE consultation for your organisation, you can book one here.
So what can we do to improve the wellbeing within the organisations?
- Create the culture of kindness, openness and trust, where it is ok to talk about your feelings and emotions, and vulnerability is seen as a strength of character.
- Have a support system in place for those who might need some professional help in dealing with stress and pressure – not just external ‘confidential helpline’, but an open, internal support group which people feel proud to be part of.
- Instead of paying for sick time off, invest in resilience programme, and have a way to identify vulnerable individuals who could benefit from building their strength before it’s too late.
Most importantly, the purpose of all the above should be to encourage proactive self-care by the individuals themselves and to empower them to take ownership of their own wellbeing, rather than implementing reactive solutions provided by the organisation, or relying on external support to ‘fix us’ when we don’t feel right.
The environment we are in can often make us or break us, and that’s why I am passionate about working with the organisations who are genuinely interested in developing their people and put human potential before the profit. It is the level of internal resilience, wellbeing and engagement of employees that in the long term always translates into great leadership potential and ensures sustainability and growth of the organisation.
What are your thoughts on this?
What future and what conditions for wellbeing your organisation is creating for its employees?
And if your colleague or employee would share with you that they don’t want to live – would you know how to help them?