Suicide accounts for almost four times as many deaths resulting from road traffic accidents in the UK, with an average of 50 people taking their own lives in Cumbria each year; an average of one life every week.
Each suicide is thought to directly affect between six and 14 people: parents, partners, children, siblings, friends, work colleagues, teachers, health care professionals. This means that for those 50 suicides in Cumbria, between 300 and 700 people are affected each year as a result of these deaths. Sadly, statistics show that those bereaved by suicide actually have an increased risk of suicide themselves.
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) is a registered national charity with the express aims of supporting those affected by suicide. It has over 60 branches across England, Wales and Scotland, one of which is SOBS Cumbria, established in November 2010.
SOBS Cumbria is run by a group of volunteers, all of whom have been affected by suicide themselves. They offer informal monthly self-help groups in Carlisle and Kendal and are currently assessing the need for a group in West Cumbria. The group has been contacted by over 150 people bereaved by suicide since 2005, but statistics show that there are many more people who may be in need of support, but may be unaware of the group’s existence.
In an attempt to raise awareness of the support that SOBS Cumbria can provide, the group is pleased to announce the launch of their very own website (www.sobs-cumbria.com) and social media channels. In addition to a closed Facebook group that group members can use as a private place to seek solace with others in similar situations, SOBS Cumbria is now using Facebook and Twitter as additional knowledge bases.
The website is full of advice and resources for people bereaved by suicide, including a comprehensive book shop, videos and various downloadable sources of information. Importantly, it details a number of donation channels, as the group could not exist without such funding. Indeed, it was a generous donation from the organisers of JayFest (a mountain biking festival held in the memory of downhill mountain biker Jaymie Mart) that enabled SOBS Cumbria to develop the website, social media and online channels.
John Brown, founder of SOBS Cumbria and bereaved by his father’s suicide, said, “SOBS provides a service that none of us wish or expect to use, it’s only when the crisis of the suicide of a loved one, a friend or a colleague occurs that we need the support. The launch of the new SOBS Cumbria website and social media now means that we can try to raise awareness in a much more effective way than by the use of traditional communications channels alone and that people can access our services more easily. Anyone who lives in Cumbria, however, will know that word of mouth is usually the most effective means of spreading the message, so we are keen to get people talking and that the online resources will be accessed by people who would like to know how we can help them.”
Paula Mart, who lost her daughter Jaymie to suicide, said of SOBS Cumbria, “The SOBS group in Cumbria are very special. They are non-judgemental and very supportive. It is great to know that there are others, because they have had a similar experience and understand what you have been through or are going through. It is also good to have somewhere to go where you can talk openly and confidentially about difficult experiences and feelings and know that, by sharing those thoughts, feelings and experiences, there are those who are in a position to offer helpful suggestions and strategies, which I found very useful.”
Jane Mathieson, Consultant in Public Health and Chair of the Cumbria Suicide Prevention Group, said, “SOBS Cumbria has filled a real gap since 2010 for people who have been bereaved by suicide; it is a responsive group of people who provide a lifeline to people who have been affected by suicide. The multi-agency suicide prevention group (that I Chair and on which SOBS Cumbria are represented) is indebted to the members of this wholly voluntary peer support group who offer a degree of hope to those people whose lives have been devastated by suicide, in a compassionate and non-judgmental way.”
If you have been bereaved by suicide and would like to talk to someone, please contact us. Our volunteers who will answer your call, text or email have been bereaved by suicide themselves and are fully trained in supporting others in the same situation. We don't mind whether you contact us by phone, text, email or social media. You can visit us at www.sobs-cumbria.org.uk/website for full contact details.
Click here to listen to John Brown and Paula Mart's interview with Radio Cumbria.