If you can read between the lines, you can save lives. That’s the message Choose Life is sending out to people in Argyll and Bute to mark Suicide Prevention Week (10–16 September).
Last year 11 people in Argyll and Bute 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.
Tracy Preece, Choose Life co-ordinator in Argyll and Bute, 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.”
Lorna Crawford, Choose Life project worker and Bute resident, 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. To support people in Argyll & Bute to get behind 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 are taking place in Argyll & Bute during Suicide Prevention Week, including mindfulness and crafting events. The main event will be a conference at Portavadie Marina on the 13th when a range of issues that increase suicide risk such as bereavement, unemployment and depression will be discussed.
Since the launch of Choose Life in 2002, Scotland’s suicide rate has decreased by 17%. Choose Life in Argyll & Bute has made a key contribution by training over 500 people in suicide intervention skills and by providing creative ways to start breaking down the stigma that surrounds suicide such as health fairs, theatre and a comedy tour that will be touring the area this October.
To find out more about Choose Life in Argyll & Bute, click on the link to the right of this article.