We all have a part to play in suicide prevention


Every year on 10 September communities and organisations around the world come together to raise awareness of how to build an environment where less people die by suicide. How well are we doing on that? As Lourdes Colclough, our head of suicide prevention explains, it's complex:

If, after reading this blog, you only remember one thing; that helping someone with suicidal thoughts is all our responsibility. You don’t have to be a clinician with reams of qualifications to do this.  We can all help through timely, active listening and knowing where to signpost for further help. Traditionally, we tell people to go and see their GP.  This is not wrong, but you can also listen well to that person, encourage them to open up, don’t panic and close the conversation down immediately, and signpost to other organisations like Samaritans.

Evidence suggests that top-down government suicide prevention strategies must be implemented alongside a grassroots approach to decrease rates of suicide. Communities and individuals like you play a vital role in suicide prevention when providing roads between community needs, national policies, and evidence-based interventions.

We know communities play a crucial role in suicide prevention. That’s why, alongside North West London ICS, Rethink Mental Illness have given grants of £237,000 to voluntary sector organisations to co-produce projects on suicide prevention and train local people in suicide awareness.

Who are these unassuming organisations? Usually on small budgets, they engage in informal follow-up care, providing the cohesive glue between health and social care providers and local authority services.

Typically, small voluntary sector organisations like Ashford Place, faith groups, or organisations like The Traveller Movement attract demographics who may not use traditional services. Smaller organisations like Dads House provide a social response and support to vulnerable single fathers often providing a service to under-represented communities falling through the net of care.   

These types of organisations can play a unique role in suicide prevention, as they provide tailored support to people who don’t often trust larger institutions. A great example of this is organisations like Breaking Bread, who work with Black men who have experienced catastrophic situations and turned them into a source of power. 

The people that run these organisations are simultaneously strong, driven and vulnerable with masses of creativity gathered to survive. There are organisations like SoBS who are working on a film fighting stigma and taboos and supporting those bereaved by suicide. They can help give individuals a sense of belonging and a feeling of connectedness by being part of a community who have a common bond or are merely in a group with others who look just like them.

Lastly, communities can also implement specific suicide prevention strategies relevant to them, like the Wilde Foundation, a platform created to promote, educate, empower and heal women and girl survivors of all kinds of abuse through writing.

Communities, and individuals within them, like you, play a critical role in suicide prevention. Voluntary organisations like Sobriety Films UK provide social support to vulnerable individuals and help give people a sense of belonging and a feeling of connectedness by being part of a community.

"Whether you are part of these organisations or just talking to a friend, everyone has a part to play in suicide prevention.  The two main things we remind people to do if someone opens up to them about suicide, are to listen well and signpost to the right places."

The Listening Place trains everyday people to work closely with people with suicidal ideation with some fantastic results.  They give lay people a vocabulary, language and confidence around suicide awareness which in turn has a ripple effect and builds stronger communities.

Be part of our movement and sign up for training or just try and listen well to the next person who opens up to you.  If you’re interested in training, contact  Zero Suicide Alliance  or if you want to  be part of  our innovative programme putting experts by experience at the centre of co-produced solutions contact.Lourdes.Colclough@rethink.org   In NW London we have Community Grants, training in suicide awareness and are recruiting experts by experience.

Useful links:

Putting coproduction at the heart of our suicide prevention services (Rethink.org)

Suicide warning signs (Merseycare.nhs.uk)