Shining a light on suicide

EVERY year about 25 people in Tameside take their own life – that’s the equivalent to a death by suicide almost every fortnight.

As part of wider work to address this, Tameside Council is helping to lead on a new Greater Manchester wide campaign to encourage people to talk about suicide – the biggest killer of men under 49 and women aged between 20 to 34 in the region – and signpost them to where they can get support.

The #shiningalightonsuicide campaign follows research and evidence among people who have considered suicide, who have said that talking honestly and openly about suicide helped to save their lives.

It has been has been commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and is supported by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and all the partners including NHS, councils, police, fire, emergency services, armed forces’ veterans, voluntary and community groups such as LGBT and Samaritans and many others.

Bereaved Tameside mother Donna Thomas, who set up the Anthony Seddon Fund with her husband Brian after losing her 30-year-old son Anthony to suicide in 2013, is helping to raise awareness of the campaign.

She said: “I really believe that the more we have conversations about suicide, the more we find the right language. I can remember a time when we didn’t talk about cancer and people didn’t go for help.”

Anthony, a musician from Ashton, was a popular, energetic and intelligent young man with a brilliant sense of humour. Sadly though, due to bipolar disorder, he was constantly in and out of hospital and struggled to cope with debilitating side effects of strong medications.

Donna said: “After struggling to access adequate support following Anthony’s death, we vowed to continue his legacy by helping people in similar situations. We now have The Anthony Seddon Fund Charity Shop in Tameside where we sell donated items to enable us to provide a space for people to discuss their mental health concerns.

“That place is The Anthony Seddon Centre in Ashton which is a safe and welcoming environment that offers support for people with mental health concerns via a drop-in-service, a range of activities and support groups.”

Donna added: “I am shining a light on suicide for my son Anthony and my family. The more we talk about it, the less we are frightened of it. If we talk about things more, we can improve people’s chances of recognising signs and ensure more people are prepared to look for help.”

Donna also firmly believes that “you don’t have to have a qualification after your name” to help someone.

“I can’t emphasise that enough,” she said. “Stand your ground and be prepared to support people even though you’re not formally qualified because I can guarantee that just asking if someone’s all right and putting your arm around them, or giving them a cup of tea, and letting them talk, is invaluable. Even lifesaving.”

The #theshiningalight campaign will be delivered over the coming months and will include a short film, website, and publicity to help reach people across Greater Manchester with guidance on what can be done to help those with suicidal thoughts – while ensuring they are signposted to support organisations.

Everyone is also encouraged to take the free 20 minute Save a Life training.

Suicide affects us all. Encourage someone to talk before suicide seems their only option. Together we can help prevent suicide. Find out how at www.shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk If you’re struggling to cope, call Samaritans on 116 123.

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