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Moray workers among 2300 Grampian-wide trained in suicide prevention by SAMH over pandemic

By Lorna Thompson

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THOUSANDS of people in Grampian, including in Moray, have been trained in suicide prevention over the pandemic.

Ahead of Suicide Prevention Day this Friday, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) has held more than 200 sessions to train more than 2300 people working in key industries, including Moray Council, Police Scotland, Coastguard Rescue Moray, education, fishing, farming, healthcare and emergency response, among others.

The latest figures from the National Records of Scotland show that more than one person a week lost their life to suicide in Grampian last year.

SAMH co-ordinates the North East Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, which brings together suicide prevention expertise from across Moray, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen.

The introductory sessions aim to provide a grounding for people to feel more informed and confident about having a conversation with someone about suicide and connecting them with support.

Liam Yule, north-east suicide prevention lead for SAMH, said: "We work with incredible partners across the north-east of Scotland to provide people from different backgrounds and communities with the skills they need to help someone at risk of suicide.

"Thinking about suicide is very common. In fact, it is estimated that one person in 20 is thinking about suicide at any one time – so training like this is really valuable for us all.

"It’s been great to get feedback from participants that many of them think it will be helpful not just in their professional lives, but also in their personal lives.

"As we collectively focus on recovery from the pandemic, we need to encourage people to talk about suicide, to feel able to ask for help, and to feel confident to give help when it’s needed."

Liam Yule, north-east suicide prevention lead for SAMH.
Liam Yule, north-east suicide prevention lead for SAMH.

The training is supported by RAF Lossiemouth serviceman Lee Whittaker, who began struggling with his mental health in 1998, aged 19.

After being deployed to Afghanistan, Lee experienced suicidal thoughts, but was reluctant to seek help out of fear that his colleagues might look on him as "weak".

Lee said: "The training provided by the North East Suicide Prevention Group will help people recognise the signs of when someone might be feeling low – and may mean the difference between life and death.

"After returning from Afghanistan, where I faced a toxic work environment, I acknowledged that my recovery was being prolonged by not speaking to someone at the time about how I was feeling and my dark thoughts, and I eventually sought help from a doctor.

"Mental health problems can come in all shapes and sizes and does not discriminate against gender, age, rank and trade. Anyone could experience them.

"I know I was put off by thinking my colleagues would think differently of me if I admitted how I felt. However, I know now that the best thing I could have done was to seek help and speak out."

Some 14 rescue teams from the HM Coastguard, including in Moray, have also completed the training. The rescuers are often called upon to assist people with thoughts of suicide.

April Doig, senior coastal operations officer at HM Coastguard, said: "With so many people experiencing mental health problems, especially during such a difficult year, this training is invaluable.

"People are often concerned in these kinds of situations that they may accidentally say the wrong thing, but our SAMH trainer gave us the confidence and tools we need to help, which is really empowering."

SAMH is encouraging those affected by suicide in any way to download the free Prevent Suicide app, at www.preventsuicideapp.com.

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