Did you know that 13% of deaths amongst people experiencing homelessness are due to suicide? Suicide is the second most common cause of death amongst people who are homeless in England and Wales.
This is deeply upsetting and distressing. Today marks World Suicide Prevention Day, a day that reminds us that suicide is preventable and that being a good listener can make all the difference to someone who is struggling.
As an organisation that works with people experiencing homelessness, it’s not only important to underscore the shocking link between homelessness and suicide. It’s also vital to highlight the small but crucial ways that people can help if they are concerned about the mental well-being of a person affected by homelessness.
Reaching out to someone who is going through a difficult time can save their life. People who are feeling low or suicidal often feel worthless and believe that no-one cares. This is often the case for people affected by homelessness. Small things like feeling heard, or being asked ‘are you ok?’ can make an immense difference.
Below are three practical and simple steps that any one of us can take to help someone experiencing homelessness who is displaying suicidal thoughts and behaviour:
First step: Asking if they need anything and are they OK? Striking up a conversation with someone you think might need help can make all the difference.
Second step: Help them to access the relevant professional service*. There are different services that we can turn to if we are concerned about someone. Please note that many people who are living on the streets do not have mobile phones.
Third step: Stay with that person until the relevant help arrives. It’s vital to keep them company and to continue talking. This period of time could save a life.
*Organisations to contact:
Samaritans - whatever anyone is going through, they can call Samaritans on 116 123 for free at any time, from any phone. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The call will not appear on a phone bill.
Mind - Mind's Infoline team is available for anyone that would like information on mental health. They can provide information on a range of topics including types of mental health problem, where to get help, medication and alternative treatments and advocacy. You can call 0300 123 3393 from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays).
Emergency services: If you think the person is in immediate danger, please call an ambulance on 999.
Thank you for reading and listening.