During 2019 Suicide Prevention Week from 9–15 September 2019, there are a variety of activities across the Western Isles.

They include:

  • suicideTALK training at Stornoway Library: Tuesday 10 September 2019: 11am to 12noon. This 1-hour long free training course will act as a starting point for those who would like to learn more about suicide and attitudes surrounding the issue.
  • Leave A Light On Service: Friday 13th September 2019, 7pm: The High Church, Matheson Road, Stornoway. The “Leave A Light On” Service is being held for those who have been lost or those who have been touched by a loss. All are welcome to attend and the service is open to anyone, regardless of faith. Light refreshments, a time to chat and literature will also be available after the service. The experience of connectedness is important in the mental health and wellbeing of all people and we are hopeful that this event will provide an opportunity for this.

The theme for Suicide Prevention Week 2019 is: ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’ and acknowledges the importance that a public health approach is needed to address suicide rates in Scotland.

Ask Tell Save a Life

That’s the message NHS Health Scotland is sending out to people across the Western Isles to mark this year’s Suicide Prevention Week (9 – 15 September 2019).  NHS Health Scotland and NHS Education for Scotland worked together to develop an online resource, Ask Tell Save a Life: Every Life Matters, to support suicide prevention, as part of the Scottish Government’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan.  This online resource aims to raise awareness of the issues that affect people and which can sometimes lead them to think about harming themselves or even taking their own life. The animation is designed to increase the confidence of individuals to support anyone in distress, by directing them to the specialist help they need at that time.

The emotional impact on families, friends and communities bereaved by suicide is devastating and can have long lasting negative effects on those left behind. Whilst it is difficult to put an exact value on the economic and social cost of a suicide; a figure of £1.5 million per individual has been estimated (https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/zero-suicides).  The ripple effect on families, friends and communities adds another dimension which would increase this figure dramatically.

We are asking everyone to be alert to the warning signs of suicide in people close to them. The message is:

 ….if you’re worried about someone, such as a friend, family member or workmate, asking them directly about their feelings can help to save their life.

The campaign acknowledges that signs of suicide can be difficult to spot, but encourages people to take all signs of distress seriously, even if it seems a person is living a normal life. It also assures people that asking a person about what’s troubling them can make a positive difference. 

People who have tried to take their life can teach us about how the words and actions of others are important. They often talk movingly about reaching the point where they could see no alternative but to take their own life. Despite this, they also had a strong desire to live but wanted someone to intervene and stop them from ending their life. By taking a minute to show you care and asking directly about suicide, you could change their life.

Elaine MacKay, Suicide Prevention Lead for the Western Isles, said: “If someone you are close to shows signs of not being themself, you will normally notice.  When changes in their behaviour begin to worry you – even if the signs come and go – the most important aspect is to ask them about it.

“Talking openly about their feelings can help a person get clarity about what is troubling them. Starting this conversation helps them gain a perspective on their distress. You don’t need to have a solution to their problems – being there for them and listening, without judgement, shows that you care and their distress, and ultimately their happiness, is important to you.”

Elaine added: “Ask if they are thinking about suicide. It won’t put the thought into their head if it wasn’t there before, but it can be a big relief for them to be able to open up fully and acknowledge they need help and support.  By taking the time to show you care and are there to listen, you could change their life.”

To support this campaign across the Western Isles, NHS Health Scotland and NHS Education Scotland have made the animations widely and easily accessible at www.bit.ly/AskTellSaveALife.

Work is ongoing year round and The Western Isles Multi Agency Suicide Prevention Advisory Group (SPAG), which has been established since November 2018 has developed a two year Action Plan. The key priority areas within that Action Plan are around developing an evidence-based community response document for anyone at risk of self-harm and suicide based around critical time interventions by all partners; the delivery of mental health and suicide prevention training across the Western Isles; the systematic collection of data on suicide and deliberate self harm through working with local and regional partners; and exploring the support available for those affected or bereaved by suicide.

Ian Graham, Chief Inspector for Police Scotland Western Isles, and Chair of the SPAG said “Every life matters, and no death by suicide should be regarded as either accepted or inevitable. Our view is that suicide is preventable, and anyone contemplating suicide or who has lost a loved one to suicide should get the support they need. If we are to achieve this, we need to make clear that suicide prevention is everyone’s business. We need to work together across sectors and organisations to identify and support people in distress, strengthen communities, and save lives.”