Picture above: Speakers from the event from left to right: Cllr Louise Gittins, Sue Forster, Carrie Carlisle, Clarke Carlisle, Michael Salla, Prof. Andy Smith
On Tuesday 10th September, World Suicide Prevention Day, the Champs Public Health Collaborative and Samaritans hosted an event at Everton Football Club’s Goodison Park, in association with the club’s charitable arm Everton in the Community.
The event brought together a group of delegates made up of communications teams from hospitals, CCG’s and local authorities, media contacts and journalists, education staff and students to learn about the responsible reporting of suicide.
With figures for suicide in 2018 being released just last week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that suicide numbers have increased in general across the UK since 2017, never has it been more necessary to raise awareness on suicide and ensure that it is being talked about in a responsible manner in order to prevent further deaths.
In Cheshire & Merseyside (C&M) suicide rates have in fact fallen since 2017, likely in part due to the ongoing work taking place across the sub-region, implementing the NO MORE Suicide Strategy, which aims for zero suicides.
It is as part of this strategy that the important event was organised, to continue to educate people, particularly those that may be in a position where they must report on suspected suicide.
The event was chaired by Cllr Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council and Elected member champion for suicide prevention in Cheshire & Merseyside (C&M). Cllr Gittins’ introduction was followed by a brief overview by Sue Forster, Director of Public Health (DPH), St Helens and DPH lead for Suicide Prevention, of the NO MORE Suicide Strategy in C&M and the aims for zero suicides throughout the area. She also highlighted the benefits of downloading and using the Stay Alive app, as a way to potentially mitigate suicidal crisis.
A key theme of the event was the media coverage of suspected suicide and how this can have both negative and positive effects on individuals and society. Renowned suicide prevention charity Samaritans delivered a workshop discussing best practice when it comes to reporting on or communicating suspected suicide.
This was followed by presentations from several organisations delivering men’s mental health programmes in the local area. Dave Scott from James’ Place presented on the recently established centre in central Liverpool, delivering interventions for men who are going through suicidal crisis through counselling for the individual and their family and friends.
Mike Salla, Phil Cooper and Professor Andy Smith spoke about how their organisations Everton in the Community, State of Mind and Edge Hill University are working together to deliver sport programmes for men which benefit their mental health.
The day concluded with a powerful and moving talk from former professional footballer Clarke Carlisle and his wife Carrie Carlisle, who spoke openly about their personal experience of suicidal crisis.
Clarke Carlisle knows all too well about how an individual comes to be in a position where they are considering taking their own life, and he shared his own experiences of this, discussing the stigma which is still very much attached to men’s mental health.
Carrie Carlisle then talked about how the experience affected her and their families, discussing the ways in which media can have both a negative and positive impact in the search for an individual who is known to be suicidal.
It is hoped that the event has opened attendees up to conversations about suicide and enabled them to feel more able to communicate about the subject in a responsible manner, consequently ensuring that further lives are not lost.
Cllr Louise Gittins said of the event:
“I feel strongly about the importance of supporting work in Cheshire & Merseyside to become a place where suicide is no longer an option for people in crisis. This event will enable more people in the area to be suicide aware and to communicate about suspected suicide in a manner that is respectful and does not encourage or lead to further unnecessary deaths.”
The event was featured on BBC North West Tonight - you can view the coverage here, 8:30-11:26: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0008dz8/north-west-tonight-evening-news-10092019
If you are having thoughts about suicide – speak to Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123 (free) or www.samaritans.org