You may or may not be aware that today is ‘World Suicide Prevention Day‘ & this week is ‘Maternal Suicide Prevention Week’.

Suicide prevention is close to my heart. For over 2 years I worked for the specialist perinatal mental health team where I spent a fair bit of time talking to mothers who felt like suicide was their only escape. Having moved on from this role; I now work in a specialist team offering therapy to anyone who has attended A&E having attempted to harm themselves or end their life.

Key statistics on maternal suicide:

  1. It is still the leading cause of direct deaths occurring within a year after the end of pregnancy
  2. It is the second largest cause of direct maternal deaths occurring during or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy
  3. It remains the fifth most common cause of women’s deaths during pregnancy and its immediate aftermath.
illustration from @guadypleskacz

1 in 7 women who die between 6 weeks and 1 year after pregnancy are dying by suicide – click here for a summary of the MBRRACE UK report

Suicidal thoughts

Suicidal thoughts are often a symptom of depression, severe anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, hopelessness & more.

Mothers often feel scared or ashamed to talk to anyone about how they really feel. There is still a stigma surrounding mental health & the fear of their baby being taken from them; as well as the guilt that they feel like this.

In Devon we are lucky to have a specialist perinatal mental health team for women who are in the perinatal period & experiencing suicidal thoughts. Have a look at our ‘Looking after yourself’ page for more info on services available locally & nationally

Worried about someone?

We can all play our part when it comes to suicide prevention. Sometimes a short conversation can be enough to make a difference between a person choosing to act on their suicidal thoughts or not.

The advice ‘WAIT’ is a good way to remember how you can support someone who may be suicidal. It stands for: 

W – watch out – for unusual changes in behavior or signs of distress. e.g. social withdrawal, excessive quietness, irritability, uncharacteristic outburst, talking about death or suicide.

This is especially important if they have had a baby within the last year, due to the risk of postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is a risk factor for maternal suicide & is a psychiatric emergency. Check out Action on Postpartum Psychosis for more info

A – Ask – “Are you having suicidal thoughts?” Asking about suicide does not encourage it, nor does it lead a person to start thinking about it. In fact it may help prevent it, and can start a potentially life-saving conversation

I – It will pass – assure your loved one that, with help, their suicidal feelings will pass with time. Remind them that you love them & that these thoughts don’t make them a bad person

T – Talk to others – encourage your loved one to seek help from a GP or health professional

Where can I get support?

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide:

  • Talk to a health professional, like your GP or health visitor.
  • Go to A&E or your local hospital
  • Call 999 or your local out of hours mental health service (in Devon the First Response Service can be contacted on 0300 555 5000)
  • Call Samaritans on 116 123

But above all please know that you matter!

Your child/ren/family will not be better off without you

You can & will feel better someday

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.


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