Listen to those with problems – Penrith suicide campaigner

Posted on Tuesday 23 February 2016

Don't be afraid to talk to people about their problems - that's the message today from a suicide prevention campaigner in Penrith.

John Brown's dad committed suicide over two decades ago - he now helps those bereaved by suicides.

It's as new figures from Samaritans show only a quarter of people in our region feel they can talk to someone when something's on their mind.

John says having someone to speak to about issues is the key to preventing future deaths:

"It's hugely important just being able to talk and I think the crucial thing is for people to listen - they don't necessarily have to say anything. Words aren't what matters - it's a touch or a bit of reassurance, just an expression of willingness to listen."

Around 50 people commit suicide in Cumbria every year - an average of almost one a week.

John says people need to be more open to having a conversation with those who might be having issues:

"People generally are afraid of mental health - certainly afraid of suicide - and anxious about asking somebody "are you ok?". They tend to be worried that they might make matters worse rather than better. The message very much from the bottom up is, it's not going to do harm."

The Samaritans have launched a national campaign to promote their own listening service - with the message 'We don't just hear you, we listen.'

John told CFM it's important support like Samaritans offer is available to people in Cumbria, especially after the recent floods:

"People who have been flooded, maybe several times over, may be having troubles with insurance and other agencies. It really troubles me that people may well be suffering from anxiety, stress and so on. I think it's just vital that they seek help, talk to somebody, and don't just keep it bottled up."

John's charity Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) supports those affected by suicide across the county - there's more information on their website.

Samaritans offer round-the-clock support to anybody who needs it via a free phone line - 116 123.