Suicide Prevention Awareness Week took place last week in the Western Isles, with events held across the islands.
This year’s theme was ‘Reading between the lines’; calling on everyone to be alert to the warning signs of suicide in their friends, family and workmates.
The message is that if you’re worried about someone, asking directly about their feelings can help to save their life.
Suicide Prevention Awareness Week kicked off in Barra on Monday 8th September, with an evening film, ‘The Flying Scotsman’, which depicts Graeme Obree, the world champion cyclist, who suffered such despair that he attempted suicide on three occasions.
In Benbecula and Stornoway, main events during the week included conferences and balloon launches.
A ‘walk for hope’ closed off events in Stornoway on Friday 12th September.
Speakers at the conferences in both Benbecula and Stornoway included Ged Flynn, Chief Executive of PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, and Darren Rocks, Choose Life Programme Manager at the Scottish Government.
PAPYRUS is a campaigning organisation founded by parents who had lost children and young people to suicide. The charity provides training and support aimed at preventing suicide in the under 35 age group.
Emelin Collier, NHS Western Isles Head of Planning and Development, commented: “Choose Life is Scotland’s national strategy and action plan to prevent suicide in Scotland. Since the outset of the Choose Life programme in 2002, there has been a reduction in suicide in Scotland by 19 per cent and that downward trend is also reflected in the Western Isles.”
Ms Collier pointed out that a major factor contributing to reduction in suicide in the Western Isles has been ‘building capacity and confidence in the community’ to support people who are extremely emotionally distressed and those families bereaved through suicide.
A total of 1,200 people across the Western Isles have completed ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) courses. ASIST training is an intensive course is for caregivers who want to feel more comfortable, confident and competent in helping to prevent the immediate risk of suicide.
Additionally, a number of people locally have also been trained in safeTALK, which is training that prepares anyone over the age of 15 to identify persons with thoughts of suicide and connect them to suicide first aid resources.
“Both of these training courses have built up community resilience to suicide and its after effects in the wider community,” she added.