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People urged to have open conversations about suicide

People are being urged to be open about suicide (Gareth Fuller/PA)
People are being urged to be open about suicide (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A new campaign is urging people to have direct and open conversations about suicide in the hope of saving lives.

The SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) initiative aims to empower people to ask someone whether they are thinking about suicide if they are concerned the person may be having suicidal thoughts.

It comes after SAMH research found that although 64% of people were comfortable talking about suicide generally, only 41% would feel comfortable asking someone they know if they are feeling suicidal.

The charity hopes the campaign will break down stigma around the issue.

The Ask Them About Suicide campaign features a short film highlighting just how easily someone’s true feelings can be hidden, and how asking the right question can change everything.

Kira, who lives in Glasgow and has experience of living with suicidal thoughts, is backing the campaign.

The 22-year-old, whose surname has been kept private, said: “There’s a lot of stigma around the word ‘suicide’ but I feel like if someone was to ask me I’d have a lot of respect for someone actually using that word, instead of beating around the bush.

“If you’ve got the bravery to say to someone ‘are you thinking about suicide?’ that’s a big thing. That’s a lot of bravery on their end as well as on the recipient’s end.

“Things are better out than in. When you actually sit down and chat to someone, even if you need a wee cry, you always feel a bit better. It’s like a weight lifted off your shoulders.”

The campaign web hub https://www.samh.org.uk/get-involved/ask shares information to guide practical conversations around suicide.

It also outlines three ways to support someone who is feeling suicidal: listen without judgement, help them to make a safe plan, and make sure you – and they – know where to turn to seek urgent or further help.

Billy Watson, chief executive at SAMH, said: “SAMH has a long-standing commitment to suicide prevention, and it is our ambition to play our part in saving lives from being lost to suicide.

“Our suicide prevention work is one of the biggest motivations to become a SAMH supporter and we are committed to increase our investment in this area. The Ask About Suicide campaign is the next step in delivering on this strategy.

“Every day, our teams are working to support people in their local communities affected by suicide or suicidal thoughts. This is backed up by a national programme – delivery includes training in key settings and peer support programmes such as The Changing Room.

“This campaign has been created alongside people like Kira, with the goal of destigmatising direct conversations about suicide, and empowering anyone to ask the question that might help save a life.

“In helping us to develop this campaign, people who have been affected by suicide tell us this is the most important question you can ask.”

Campaign adverts will appear across social media, a wide range of podcasts and on television, with the first TV advert premiering during Coronation Street later on Monday.