Make time for your wellbeing and reach out to those who need help this Christmas

Published

Health leads in Suffolk are uniting in a message of support for anyone struggling to cope this winter, calling on people to seek help and not to struggle alone.

In a joint message between Suffolk’s Public Health team, Suffolk Mind and Samaritans, people are urged to make time for their own wellbeing, as well as those around them this festive season by reaching out to friends and family, staying active and planning early, not forgetting the every-day bills, to avoid getting into unnecessary debt in the new year.

The call on people not to suffer in silence over the holiday period is part of a continuing approach to support good mental health in Suffolk. Suffolk Lives Matter encourages people to talk openly, while raising awareness of the support available to help people manage their mental health. Since it began in 2016, more than 150 people have become Suffolk Life Savers as part of the far-reaching campaign to reduce the number of people in the county who take their own lives.

Around 60 people die by suicide in Suffolk every year, with Christmas and New Year being a particularly challenging time for many, especially those who have been bereaved. Earlier in the year, Suffolk’s suicide prevention steering group launched a new service to support individuals, families and others bereaved by suicide.

AMPARO (which means 'shelter' or 'safe haven' in the Spanish language) works in close partnership with the police, coroner service and other partners to offer support following notification of a suspected suicide. The service offers a discreet and completely confidential service, including 1-2-1 individual support, practical help and signposting to local services that can help. AMPARO Suffolk can also support communities, schools and workplaces in the event of a suspected or actual suicide.

Councillor James Reeder, Cabinet Member for Health, said:

“The Christmas period is generally a time to enjoy yourself and look forward to time with friends and family. However, for some, the combination of loneliness, debt and the expectations that accompany the run up to Christmas can have devastating consequences.

“Suicide has far-reaching effects on family, friends and entire communities. No-one should feel they are alone, or that this is the only option.

“This is why it is so important for people to know that help is at hand. If you are struggling, talk to friends and loved ones about how you are feeling.

“We are fortunate to have some outstanding support services here in Suffolk who are ready to listen and offer advice. If you are concerned about the wellbeing of others, from friends to family members, you can seek advice about how you can help. If you know someone who might be lonely this Christmas, give them a call or pop round to see them. Even a little attention can mean an awful lot.”

The Five Ways to Wellbeing gives advice on easy, free and meaningful activities people can do to improve wellbeing.

Similar to the five-a-day fruit and vegetable message, the framework proposes the following elements, which evidence suggests can make a positive impact to an individual’s health:

  • Connect with others
  • Be active
  • Keep learning
  • Take notice
  • Give

Councillor Reeder added:

“These simple steps can be crucial to preventing mental ill health in the longer term. This can be as simple as trying something new, conversing with people around you or keeping active through regular exercise.”

Jon Neal, Chief Executive of Suffolk Mind said:

“Christmas can be a time of joy, spent with family and friends. But for many it is none of those things. We all have emotional needs for community, meaning and purpose, a connection with someone close to us – which could be a pet. It’s important, at this time of year in particular, to be aware that we have these needs and to think about how we can try and get them met in healthy ways.

“For example, there are lots of volunteering opportunities that enable people to feel a connection to something bigger than themselves and to meet up with like-minded people. parkruns are a great way to access a community on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day – and you don’t have to run, you can walk them if you prefer. And it might be a good idea to try and avoid the temptations thrown at us in the shops in the run-up to Christmas, maintaining as much control as we can over our spending. Maybe setting a budget early and sticking to it.

“A little exercise can be great for mental health when the days are short and the weather isn’t great. By signing up to RED January, we can all help to keep ourselves well by moving every day in whatever way we feel comfortable. Find out more at www.suffolkmind.org.uk/redjanuary

Judy Wright, Branch Director, Samaritans of Ipswich and East Suffolk said:

“With Christmas fast approaching we should be mindful that this time of year is not always a good time for many people. For those that Christmas is a happy time, there are as many who will dread Christmas for a variety of reasons.  Mental health, family issues, loneliness, relationship problems, financial problems, physical health, violence, abuse and bereavement are just a few examples of why some people struggle. The Christmas and New Year period can seem like a very long and distressing time in some situations.

“If you are one of the lucky ones please give a thought for those around you who are not quite so lucky and perhaps spare them some time to give them the gift of listening.

“If you are struggling and dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings it may help to talk to someone. The Samaritans service is available all year round and will be available all over the Christmas and New Year period. Samaritans can be contacted at any time of the night or day. You can always Talk To Us. You needn’t be alone.

“Anyone can contact Samaritans any time for free from any phone on 116 123. This number will not show up on your bill.

“You can also email to jo@samaritans.org or go to www.samaritans.org to find details of your local branch where you can talk to someone face to face.”

While no single organisation is responsible for preventing suicide, a range of professionals from the voluntary and charity sector, clinical commissioning groups, local councils, police, Healthwatch Suffolk, the coroner’s office and mental health services all play a crucial role.

A summary list of organisations who offer help in the county is available from www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/suffolklivesmatter or from the Suffolk InfoLink directory.