If you can read between the lines, you can save lives. That’s the message Choose Life is sending out to people in Angus and Dundee to mark Suicide Prevention Week (September 10 to 16).
Last year 14 people in Angus and 19 people in Dundee took their own lives, leaving a lasting impact on families, friends and communities.
Choose Life is tackling this through its new ‘Read between the lines’ campaign, which calls on everyone to be alert to the warning signs of suicide in people close to them. The message is that if you’re worried about someone, such as a friend, family member or workmate, asking them directly about their feelings can help to save their life.
The campaign acknowledges that signs of suicide can be ambiguous, but encourages people to take all signs of distress seriously, even if the person seems to be living a normal life. It also aims to assure people that asking a person about what’s troubling them can make a positive difference.
Gail Forrest, Choose Life co-ordinator for Angus and Dundee said: “You tend to know when someone close to you isn’t quite themselves. So if you notice any changes in their behaviour that worry you – even if the signs come and go – ask them about it.
“You’ll find that talking can help a person get clarity about what it is that’s troubling them, and often gives a sense of perspective. Starting a conversation is half the battle. You don’t need to have an answer to their problems – just be there for them, try to listen carefully without judging, and show that you care.”
Gail added: “If it feels right, ask if they are thinking about suicide. It won’t put the thought in their head if it wasn’t there before, but it can be a big relief for them to be able to say, ‘yes, I am’ and acknowledge they need help.”
The campaign targets men and women who are likely to be in greatest contact with people most at risk of suicide – men aged 30-59, since statistics show that around three quarters of suicides have been men in every year since 1990.
Thought-provoking posters will be displayed in a range of community venues as well as in public toilets, and on buses and trains. To encourage people in Angus and Dundee to support the campaign, Choose Life is making widely available information cards with simple ‘how to help’ steps, and leaflets giving advice on starting conversations about suicide and listening effectively.
Raising awareness of suicide prevention and giving the public information is a vital part of the work of Choose Life. A host of activities, supported by Dundee City Council, Angus Council, NHS Tayside and Tayside Police are taking place across Angus and Dundee during Suicide Prevention Week, including:
Working with Dundee United, Forfar Athletic, and Arbroath Football Clubs to raise awareness of suicide prevention at their home games during Suicide Prevention week. Information will be available in the match day programmes and announcements will be made before the game and at half time. Information and helpline cards will be handed out by Choose Life volunteers and offenders undertaking Community Payback to spectators prior to the game.
Specifically designed advertising boards have been erected at Arbroath Football Club, Brechin City Football Club and Forfar Athletic Football Club to promote the suicide prevention message and helpline numbers.
Working with the Best Bar None scheme in Angus and Dundee and providing all currently accredited premises with beer mats, key message cards and training information.
An awareness stand will be in place at Ninewells Hospital for the duration of Suicide Prevention Week.
Buses across Angus and Dundee will have a specifically designed suicide prevention advert displayed on the inside and outside of buses.
Big Bus, the designated youth buses in Dundee will have a supply of resources for the young people. The Corner in Dundee and the Young People’s Health workers in Angus will be running specific health drop- ins
Information will go on display at bus stances, certain leisure centres and health information points across the area.
ASIST (Applies Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is being delivered by Dundee University
Staff working for Angus Council, Dundee City Council and NHS Tayside have been given information on suicide prevention, either through their payslips or all-staff emails.
Samaritans will be undertaking their “feet on the street” project in both Arbroath and Dundee over the Friday and Saturday night of Suicide Prevention Week.
For further details, contact Gail Forrest, Mental Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinator (Angus and Dundee) on 01307 474824 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, contact Linda Menzies, communications officer, Angus Council on 01307 476118 or email Menziesl@angus.gov.uk.