A mental health charity is calling on people this Christmas to reach out to friends and family who may be struggling to cope with festivities.
Tyneside and Northumberland Mind reveals research has found helping others has proved to be beneficial for our own mental health and wellbeing with acts of kindness helping to reduce stress.
Kathy McKenna, A Life Worth Living (ALWL) Suicide Prevention Co-ordinator said: “Christmas can be a fantastic time to reach out to people. We don’t need an excuse to open a door, smile and wish someone well. If only we could convey this message of kindness beyond the 12 days.”
Training programme A Life Worth Living has been created to train those in the heart of the community to develop skills, knowledge and confidence to reach out to people they fear are struggling with life and may be considering suicide.
To date the programme run by Washington Mind and delivered across Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead, has trained more than 2,000 people from over 320 different businesses, services and organisations - including taxi drivers, debt advisors, hairdressers, community police officers and young peoples support staff.
Kathy said: “ALWL trains people to reach out and ask someone if they are struggling and if they are having thoughts of ending their life.
ALWL trains people to reach out and ask someone if they are strugglingKathy McKenna
“Sometimes people say things which might help you recognise they are struggling to cope. People sometimes say these things in the hope you will pick up on them and ask what they mean, so that they can talk about it. Suicides peak in spring. We have time to reach out and make a difference.”
At the end of the course, those taking part will have be able to identify some of the signs and symptoms associated with emotional distress; understand risk factors which can increase the possibility of suicidal behaviours; be able to support a suicidal person by applying the LIFE model and be more confident when talking to a person who is having suicidal thoughts.
Kathy added: “The majority of suicides take place within the home and by people who have never been in contact with mental health services. Suicide is not a mental health issue it is a crisis situation that can occur when we reach tipping point.
“Talking can help point us in the direction of further help and support when we may be feeling that our situation is one that we cannot find a way out of. We need to see reaching out for help as a sign of strength and not one of weakness.
“Suicide takes lives and destroys lives. Suicides can be prevented.”
The course, supported by Sunderland and South Tyneside public health departments, aims to help bust myths around suicide to give people a greater understanding of what can drive a person to see taking their own life as the only option. As well as what people can do to encourage them to see there are other options.
One person who took part in the four hour course, said: “The course really opened my mind around suicide and around how sometimes people just need to reach out to them and for people not turn to their back on them.
“It really does help you to understand more around the thoughts of a person who is thinking about suicide and what you can do to help show them that there is another way.
“I think the most important thing I came away from the course with was that suicide is a permanent solution to what could be a temporary feeling of pain - and that by showing that you care and taking the time to really listen, that it can be prevented.”
For more information on ALWL visit www.alifeworthliving.org.uk
We are running a series of articles in the days leading up to Christmas, which statistically is a tough time for those who have found themselves struggling to cope with life.
Each day, with the help of Washington Mind, we will be focusing on a different topic about mental health and wellbeing as well as inviting you to carry out a small act of kindness.
The campaign aims to encourage people to reach out to others and – for those who are struggling – show that there can be light at the end of the tunnel.
The charity is calling on people to think about someone you know, a friend, a colleague, a loved one, who may be having a difficult time. Reach out and let them know they are not alone. Send a text, a card or make a call and let them know they are loved and that you care.
Call: 417 8043 or Text: 07507 330 995
Drop in: The Life House, Grasmere Terrace, Columbia, Washington.
More information: www.wellbeinginfo.org
Call: 116 123
Hopeline for young people struggling with suicidal thoughts: 08000 684 141
or Text: 07786209697