Opinion: Today marks National Suicide Prevention Day


By Councillor James Reeder, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Prevention

Suicide is a subject that is often seen as taboo and frequently not discussed. That’s why it’s so important that we do all we can to talk more openly about suicide and understand that help is available.

Help such as the Samaritans, who can be contacted free of charge, 24 hours a day, on 116 123.

Kristian called the Samaritans late one evening after he had taken steps to end his life.

He has this to say about the call, which in his own words saved his life –

“I found it hard to speak to begin with, but the guy on the other end of the phone waited. When I’d had a chance to gather my thoughts I began to unload and it felt like a huge weight was lifted from me. After that call my whole life changed. I sought professional help and was referred for counselling, which has been really helpful. Looking back now I wish I had called sooner. I didn’t have to get to a crisis point and I would tell anyone going through something similar to call now, you won’t regret it. I had no idea that someone listening to me would have such an impact.”

Kristian isn’t alone; sadly in Suffolk male suicide rates are nearly three times higher than females (which is broadly reflected elsewhere). Luckily support is on hand - The UK Men’s Sheds Association has 517 open men’s sheds in the UK, with another 133 sheds in development. It’s estimated that 12,408 men are benefitting directly from having a place to come and talk if they need to. This life changing service helped a Suffolk resident who didn’t want to be around anymore. His local shed gave him a sense of purpose as not only did it provide him with a creative outlet, but he was also entrusted with duties to assist in the day to day running of the shed. You can find your nearest shed here menssheds.org.uk.

The impact of suicide on families, friends and entire communities is devastating. Groups such as Hope After Suicide Loss (www.hopeaftersuicideloss.org.uk) provide vital support and let those left behind know that there are others in similar situations.

An estimated 1 in 5 of us have had suicidal thoughts at some point. Having strong support networks in place and people to speak to, when you need it, can make all the difference.

James Reeder Informal HR WS ResizedIf you are struggling to cope, and don’t feel comfortable confiding in a friend or family member, then help is available from the Samaritans and other organisations. To find out more about the support available in Suffolk, visit www.healthysuffolk.org.uk and search for ‘Suffolk Lives Matter’. Alternatively, speak to your GP, or dial 999 in an emergency.

Three years ago, we set out on our journey to prevent suicide in Suffolk with the launch of our Suffolk Lives Matter strategy. Working alongside partners including health, the police, Samaritans and others, we have taken joint action in an attempt to reduce the 60 deaths by suicide in Suffolk every year.

One of the key aspects of our work is the Suffolk Life Savers campaign, which encourages people to make a personal pledge of support to talk more openly about suicide and to raise awareness of the support in Suffolk.

You don’t need to be a mental health professional to help someone as you have all the experience you need to save a live. The most important point to bear in mind is that any conversation can make a difference to how someone is feeling. If you see someone who may need help, trust your instincts and talk to them, even if it’s about something as trivial as the weather.

There are often no clear warning signs; simply letting people know that you are there for them when they need help is often the best thing you can do. I’m urging as many people as possible to visit www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/projects/suffolk-lives-matter/your-suffolk-life-saver-pledge to pledge to raise awareness of the support available and to tackle the stigma associated with suicide. Each pledge, will receive a Suffolk Life Saver pack, containing posters, a pull-out card, wristband and other supporting information. If you’d like to receive a pack, please include a delivery address when you email your pledge to healthandwellbeing@suffolk.gov.uk.

I’ve pledged my support as although not a suicide, I know from personal experience how it feels to lose someone you love. That’s why I am passionate about doing all I can to break down the stigma associated with this subject and to help other people who may be struggling for many different reasons.