Barnet Post

Barnet Post

Lighting a candle in the dark

Rory Cooper on suicide prevention and mental health wellbeing in Barnet

Hero for Lighting a candle in the dark
Candles are the international symbol of suicide prevention (Credit: Rebecca Peterson-Hall/Unsplash)
By Rory Cooper 22 January 2022

As the nights have drawn in and the temperature has dropped, midwinter has well and truly set in. Winter is often a challenging time for our sense of wellbeing as we get less fresh air, natural light and exercise and some of us hide away at home. As the nights have drawn in and the temperature has dropped, midwinter has well and truly set in. Winter is often a challenging time for our sense of wellbeing as we get less fresh air, natural light and exercise and some of us hide away at home.

In Barnet, with so many of the winter festivals that our borough’s diversity of faiths celebrate, I am struck by how many are marked by the lighting of candles. By bringing light into the dark and signifying hope. From Diwali through Hannukah to Christmas and many more, winter festivals call upon celebrants to light a flame. It is fitting then that the international symbol for suicide awareness and prevention is a lit candle. In Barnet, with so many of the winter festivals that our borough’s diversity of faiths celebrate, I am struck by how many are marked by the lighting of candles. By bringing light into the dark and signifying hope. From Diwali through Hannukah to Christmas and many more, winter festivals call upon celebrants to light a flame. It is fitting then that the international symbol for suicide awareness and prevention is a lit candle. 

Millions of people around the world remember loved ones they have lost and those who are suffering by taking a moment and lighting a candle in re-membrance. Millions of people around the world remember loved ones they have lost and those who are suffering by taking a moment and lighting a candle in re-membrance. 

Many of us will very sadly have lost someone close to us or know someone who has died by suicide. This includes me. In the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 49. In 2019 there were 6,800 registered deaths by suicide in England and Wales, with nearly 50 of them taking place in Barnet. Many of us will very sadly have lost someone close to us or know someone who has died by suicide. This includes me. In the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 49. In 2019 there were 6,800 registered deaths by suicide in England and Wales, with nearly 50 of them taking place in Barnet.

Due to the intense stigma, sadness and shame often associated with suicide, we still don’t discuss what is a very common and important public health issue. We only compound the problem by not talking about the issue with those that we love. Many people consider or contemplate suicide but not enough of us feel able to talk about or discuss these thoughts and feelings. Due to the intense stigma, sadness and shame often associated with suicide, we still don’t discuss what is a very common and important public health issue. We only compound the problem by not talking about the issue with those that we love. Many people consider or contemplate suicide but not enough of us feel able to talk about or discuss these thoughts and feelings. 

If you have been bereaved by suicide you might feel any number of feelings: intense sadness, shock, anger, frustration, confusion, and isolation. Some people also talk about experiencing a sense of shame or guilt, and while this is a very common reaction it is important to remember that people who take their own lives are often trying to stop feelings of distress that can feel as intense and real as physical pain – the reasons for suicide are complex and you are not to blame. If you have been bereaved by suicide you might feel any number of feelings: intense sadness, shock, anger, frustration, confusion, and isolation. Some people also talk about experiencing a sense of shame or guilt, and while this is a very common reaction it is important to remember that people who take their own lives are often trying to stop feelings of distress that can feel as intense and real as physical pain – the reasons for suicide are complex and you are not to blame.

Suicide can have a ripple effect, extending well beyond the person’s immediate family and friends. How you are affected will depend on your relationship with the person who has died, the strength of the attachment and the circumstances around the death. The hardest part of dealing with suicide is the blame we place upon ourselves. The fact is, we are never to blame if someone else is determined to take their own life. But, just listening and talking to someone can be immensely helpful. Suicide can have a ripple effect, extending well beyond the person’s immediate family and friends. How you are affected will depend on your relationship with the person who has died, the strength of the attachment and the circumstances around the death. The hardest part of dealing with suicide is the blame we place upon ourselves. The fact is, we are never to blame if someone else is determined to take their own life. But, just listening and talking to someone can be immensely helpful. 

This winter, I encourage all of us to communicate whatever our current personal circumstances but particularly if we are in any way worried by how those around to us are feeling. We can all help each other bring light into the dark and hope out of despair. This winter, I encourage all of us to communicate whatever our current personal circumstances but particularly if we are in any way worried by how those around to us are feeling. We can all help each other bring light into the dark and hope out of despair. 

To learn more about the suicide prevention and mental health awareness work being done in Barnet this year and some of the free training and resources available have a look: Barnet Wellbeing.To learn more about the suicide prevention and mental health awareness work being done in Barnet this year and some of the free training and resources available have a look: Barnet Wellbeing.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected], or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch. When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected], or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.