Halting suicides: Why it’s good to talk

Andys Man Club raising awareness of the issues  in Halifax town centre
Andys Man Club raising awareness of the issues in Halifax town centre

Open discussion about suicide is needed, campaigners have said, to rebuild community resilience and provide stronger support networks.

Too often, they warn, fear and stigma stand in the way of early intervention which can and does save lives.

Kim Shutler-Jones, chief executive of West Yorkshire-based charity The Cellar Trust, said the majority of those who take their own life have had no prior contact with mental health services.

“Overall, the number of suicides is going down nationally,” she said.

“However, a lot more people are finding themselves in crisis because of the impact of austerity.

“They are in crisis because something has happened in their lives. There are a lot of issues in rural areas, around isolation and loneliness.”

Approaches are changing in Yorkshire, she said, and there are pockets of excellence with crisis care, such as in Bradford. And a key focus is on charity support, with many offering a safe haven or a listening ear to individuals in their time of need.

“It’s important just to have that conversation,” she said. “There’s no shame in asking for help.”

David Smith, chief executive of Hull and East Yorkshire Mind, added: “For someone preparing to take their own life, it wasn’t something that they woke up with that morning.

“There has been a life journey that has taken them to that point. Having somewhere to live, a job to go to, having engagement and hope for their future. Being a part of society, part of a community.

“This isn’t a question of whether we have enough mental health services – it’s much wider than that. Our community is where most of us get most of our support most of the time.

“It’s the community side that we need to think about. About how we can rebuild community resilience, and support, so that we are not reliant on mental health services to keep us well.”

It emerged last year Yorkshire had some of the highest rates in country, with 11.6 deaths per 100,000 of the population. The rates had been rising, by 30 per cent over the five years to 2015. New figures show there has been a drop – with efforts from charities and authorities credited with helping to ease the pressures.

But open conversations are still needed, Mr Smith says, to understand why people are at crisis point. “It’s a scary situation to be in, when such a significant rise happens and the research hasn’t been done to understand what has changed in the last few years,” he said. “We just don’t know.

“There’s an acceptance that a certain number of suicides is to be expected, with the impression that if we don’t go above that, it’s OK. One suicide is a suicide too many.”