Free suicide prevention training for every St Helens community

Zero Suicide Alliance training took place at St Helens Town Hall

Every community will have the chance to get suicide prevention training in St Helens Borough.

It comes as councillors pledged their support to OK2ASK, a suicide prevention campaign encouraging people to speak up about issues affecting them and as everyone is urged to join the Brew Monday campaign to encourage people to pick up a drink and have a chat.

Partners and the public got a chance to take the suicide prevention training from Zero Suicide Alliance while councillors approved a motion from Councillor Anthony Burns, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure and Libraries, calling on training for all and encouraging councillors who had not yet had training to do so.

Cllr Burns said: “Suicide is an incredibly complex issue that we alone cannot fight. OK2ASK is our campaign that is bringing in partners and businesses from across St Helens Borough to help us tackle this together. It is great to see so many of them come together to join us at St Helens Town Hall to show how we are working as one to reach our ultimate goal of zero suicides in our town. The motion to council was also an opportunity to make sure that the campaign is reaching every area of our town and that we leave no one behind.”

The campaign has been created with support from St Helens Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBs) and group facilitators Derek Hall and Anne Cunliffe joined the session last Wednesday.

Anne said: “I lost my son 17 years ago and there was nothing we could have done to save Andrew but at the time the word suicide was never in our vocabulary and would never have got spoken about. There was no awareness of people taking their own life and I just think that it’s so important that we get it out there that the advice is there, that young people are talked to about it, that it’s okay to talk if they’re having suicidal thoughts and to help them and there not be the stigma around that there was years ago. I think we are moving away from it and that’s why these campaigns are so important to get that message out there that it’s okay to not feel well, it’s okay to feel down and to talk about it to someone.”

Derek said: “We’ve both suffered from losing someone we’ve cared for and loved to suicide. We support people who have also lost someone in that way and we just want to do our little bit to help people who are struggling from becoming another victim or another statistic.”

OK2ASK focuses on the life-saving conversations anyone could have by asking someone ‘are you thinking about suicide?’.

Zero Suicide Alliance are behind the training being rolled out across the borough.

Myles Hodgson, from Zero Suicide Alliance, said: “We’re backing the OK2ASK campaign because we realise the importance of partnerships because nobody can do it all by themselves. It’s a big job trying to get everybody to think about suicide and react to suicide and help people who are having suicidal thoughts so campaigns like this alongside our training are what we were formed for.

“The training lasts 20 minutes, it’s free, you can it online on our website. We think it’s the only training out there that has a mixture of clinical expertise and experience and it gives you real scenarios and teaches you the skills to approach somebody who might be struggling. That could be a relative a friend, a work colleague and our research tells us that people want to help but they’re scared of approaching someone because they think they might worsen the situation. This training is designed to give you the skills to approach it in a kindly and helpful manner.”

Charity partners Papyrus and Samaritans are also backing the campaign which fits in with the support they can offer.

Joann Hitchens, from Papyrus UK, said: “We’re there for people who have got thoughts of suicide, but we’re there for people who are worried about someone who’s got thoughts of suicide. If someone is worried about asking that question, maybe they don’t know how to ask, they could call Hopeline UK and get some advice.”

Gary Birkenhead, from Samaritans, added: “Samaritans is involved in the local suicide prevention group in St Helens so we’ve been part of this from the outset and we realised from the calls we get how important it is to get people to open up. The best way to get people to open up is to ask that question and we can all do it, it’s simple and it doesn’t take long and it’s a really effective way of getting people opening up. This shouldn’t just be about certain people, like health professionals, social care professionals doing it, it should be everyone. It doesn’t take any skill, it doesn’t take much time and we can all do it.”

And OK2ASK is being supported by businesses across the town too like construction firm Wates.

Carl Wales from the company said: “I think it’s a really important campaign to back. At Wates we are doing a campaign throughout 2020 around suicide awareness which will run every quarter and it’s really good that part of our regional teams in Wates Construction have taken the time out to support the OK2ASK campaign whilst they are working in St Helens.”

To find out more about the 20 minute free training, sessions in the community and more advice and support on where to get help visit www.oktoaskcampaign.co.uk

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