Just ask, it’s a lifesaver

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Did you know that in Edinburgh alone, someone takes their own life every five days? Or that 74 people lost their lives in this way in the Capital last year?

Did you know that suicide is the leading cause of death amongst young people aged 35 and below in this country?

Today, on World Suicide Awareness Day, campaigners are highlighting the importance of reaching out to those who may feel they cannot cope.

The City of Edinburgh Choose Life Reference Group is the forum where council, NHS, police and third sector providers have been looking at ways of reducing suicide in the city.

A major achievement of Choose Life has been in training frontline staff to improve communication and responses relating to suicide. As of July this year more than five thousand people have received training in suicide prevention – including frontline staff in the council, NHS, Lothian and Borders Police and third sector providers.

The Samaritans and Breathing Space helpline services are crucial in this work, and leaflets about their helplines have been sent to all the council’s high-rise blocks, where concierge staff have also been trained.

You can all play a part. “Just ask” is the theme of this year’s awareness campaign, and encourages people to reach out to those whose behaviour suggests that they are depressed.

The hard part is starting the conversation. What stops us is embarrassment, not knowing what to say or even the worry that it might encourage suicidal thoughts. But according to Choose Life, a sympathetic ear may be all that is needed. If you are concerned about someone you know, just ask. It could save a life.

n Councillor Norman Work is Vice Convener for Health and Social Care for the City of Edinburgh Council.

Call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (24 hours) or Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 (Mon-Thurs, 6pm-2am, weekends Fri 6pm-Mon 6am)