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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Shine a Light and Save a Life

Friday, 19 July 2019


What’s the biggest killer of men under the age of 49 and women between the ages of 20-34 in Greater Manchester? It’s not heart disease and it’s not cancer. In fact it’s not anything that would be considered “natural causes”. The biggest killer of so many young women and young to middle-aged men is suicide.

Every year it’s estimated that 200 people in Greater Manchester make the choice to end their own lives. That number is bad enough, but what is truly disturbing is that 1 in 5 of us has thought about suicide. Let’s not play down what this means. It means that, at some point in our lives, there has been a friend, or a child, or a parent who has seriously considered taking that final and most irreversible of actions.

That’s why in Greater Manchester we’ve said, “enough is enough”, and created “Shining a Light on Suicide”. Officially launched in May this year, the campaign aims to take suicide out of the dark by encouraging everyone across Greater Manchester, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or life circumstances, to talk openly and honestly about suicide, suicidal thoughts and suicide bereavement.

The importance of this cannot possibly be overstated, because the most insidious thing about suicide is that it is very much a silent killer. The stigma and taboo around frank and open discussion about suicide, and mental health in general, is still real. The ideas that people who kill themselves are somehow selfish or weak, or that people who attempt suicide are attention seeking, costs lives that may have otherwise been saved. Too often the warning signs aren’t noticed or discussed, either because the person suffering doesn’t talk about it or those close to them don’t ask about it.

That power, the power to break the stigma around suicide, the power to literally save lives, lies with all of us. Sometimes all a person considering suicide needs to step back from the brink is the knowledge that somebody cares about them. If more intensive therapy or mental health support is required, then talking can often be the first step on the road to getting that help. Regardless of what’s needed, it always begins with opening up.

The “Shining a Light on Suicide” campaign also seeks to highlight that there are certain groups that are more vulnerable to mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. Carl Austin-Behan, the first openly gay Lord Mayor of Manchester and the LGBT advisor to Andy Burnham, has spoken frankly and powerfully about the challenges faced by gay and transgender individuals, particularly the impact of hate speech on mental health. It’s especially relevant to us here in Tameside, as we recently celebrated the borough’s biggest-ever Pride event. This week we’re focusing on mental health and suicide in the construction sector. The risk of suicide in the construction and building trades is 1.6 times higher than the national average, and more than one in four workers in the sector have considered taking their own lives. That’s translated into 1,400 deaths by suicide over the past four years. The Shining a Light on Suicide website also provides a 20-minute online “Save a Life” training course to help people recognise when somebody may be struggling and what they can do to help them.

If you feel like you need to talk to somebody the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by e-mailing jo@samaritans.org. You can also get in touch with the mental health charity Mind by calling 0300 123 3393 or visiting mind.org.uk. These organisations are run by people who care and understand what you’re going through, and will be able to offer you help and support if you choose to reach out to them.  

There’s a metaphor about mental health I’ve heard that has always stuck with me. If you had a broken leg you wouldn’t try and walk it off, or think that getting treatment for it made you less of a person. You’d seek professional help. That’s where we need to get to with mental health, and with your help we’ll get there in Greater Manchester.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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