This World Suicide Prevention Day we want to raise awareness to help remove stigma and open up conversations about mental health.
A colleague in our housing services team recently used her Mental Health First Aid and Suicide Prevention training when out on a weekend dog walk.
She kindly shares her experience here in the hope that it will encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out.
“As a Neighbourhood Income Coach, I have been on Mental Health First Aid training and Suicide Prevention training. I’ve put the skills I learned into practice a few times, but one particular experience stays with me.
I was out one Saturday taking the dog for a walk when I heard a young man on the phone sounding distressed, and talking about how he didn’t want to live.
In any situation I want to help people and I knew I couldn’t walk past him without offering a kind word. I approached him to ask if he was ok and he replied that he was fine.
As I continued walking something just didn’t sit right and I turned back to find the young man again. I explained that he appeared upset and that I was happy to sit with him and be a listening ear.
As we sat together on a park bench, he shared some personal struggles. Remembering my training, I decided to ask him “Are you thinking about suicide?” He said yes, and that he had previously attempted to take his own life.
Before receiving my Mental Health First Aid training, I wouldn’t have thought to ask such a direct question, but I’m so pleased now that I did.
We spent a little longer chatting and agreed that we would wait for a family member to come and meet him. As the minutes passed, I could feel him becoming calmer. We walked together and stopped at a Church open day on the way. He waited for his family member to meet him, and I knew that at that time, a crisis had been avoided.
With my training still ringing in my ears, I remembered to signpost him to services such as the Samaritans and his GP.
I’ll never forget that experience. If there’s one piece of advice I could give someone who is worried about a relative, friend, or even a stranger you meet on a walk, it’s to ask the direct question ‘are you thinking about suicide?’ It may just help save a life.”
If you’re struggling and need someone to talk to, the Samaritans are available anytime, day or night. There are a number of ways to contact them here: Contact Us | Samaritans