THE BLOG

Encouraging People To Talk Is Crucial To Suicide Prevention

12/05/2017 13:47 BST | Updated 12/05/2017 13:47 BST
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There's a huge hunger for information about suicide, from how to raise the subject to how you provide people with the right support to save lives. As a Samaritans volunteer and director of Wakefield branch I encounter this every day as I do outreach work in my community in West Yorkshire.

It's positive in one way - we are all talking about mental health and suicide much more now - but still, many people don't know what to do about it and suicide continues to be the biggest killer of men and young people.

As this is Mental Health Awareness Week, I have been involved in running suicide awareness sessions for office staff.

On one of the feedback forms, someone left the comment: "Would like to see more mental health support at the council to employees working in sometimes very traumatic situations".

In Wakefield, we are swamped with demand for training in awareness raising about suicide, we are going into schools, workplaces, the NHS and commercial companies, training school nurses, office workers, GPs, social workers and housing staff.

Many people struggle with 21st century life and increasingly they want information about how to cope - and how we can help each other.

Encouraging people to talk is crucial - just asking someone how they are, and listening carefully to what they tell you can make such a difference to them. Anyone can do that with training, we can all help each other.

In a recent workshop, a woman put her hand up and said: "It can be such a relief to just be able to say the word 'suicide' to someone feeling that way. But most people don't know how to bring it up."

To try and meet this demand, the local children's safeguarding board, the Yorkshire Fire Service, Samaritans, Wakefield Public Health and mental health staff got together in December last year and agreed to run awareness raising courses.

We look at the effect suicide can have on people, especially children and young people, as well as running group exercises, training in listening skills and examining the most effective ways to provide support.

We also tell people about Facing the Future, the free courses for people bereaved by suicide jointly run by Samaritans and Cruse Bereavement Care all over the UK. Anyone bereaved by suicide is at higher risk of taking their own life.

We thought that 20 people might sign up for the first course aimed at public sector managers - more than 70 arrived and we were turning people away. We are running more courses now and they are always oversubscribed.

We are going into workplaces regularly, from health and public sector offices to commercial companies. Teaching managers how to listen effectively makes a major difference to sickness rates, if you take ten minutes' time out to listen to someone's problems, they could be less likely to become sick in the first place.

We need to start early on in people's lives to give them to best chance of good mental health. Schools should look at the whole person, not just test results. We need to look after children and young people so that they can navigate through life's challenges and pressures.

Samaritans volunteers are doing this all over the country in partnership with other local organisations as an effective means of suicide prevention. Sharing information about what works and helps people is a key part of this, and rolling it out to other areas means everyone can feel the benefit.

Samaritans is calling for every area to have an effective suicide prevention plan in place as part of their Local Action Saves Lives campaign. The charity's election manifesto press release can be found here.