Open conversation can help prevent suicide

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Pauline Toner on Choose Life's campaign for Suicide Prevention Week

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1st September 2016 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

If you can read between the lines, you can save lives. That’s the message Choose Life is sending out to people in Glasgow to mark Suicide Prevention Week (5–11 September).

Last year 68 people in Glasgow took their own lives, leaving a tragic, lasting impact on families, friends, and communities.

Pauline Toner

Pauline Toner

If you’re worried about someone, such as a friend, family member or workmate, asking them directly about their feelings can help to save their life

Choose Life is trying to change this through its ‘Read between the lines’ campaign, which calls on everyone to be alert to the warning signs of suicide in people close to them.

The message is that if you’re worried about someone, such as a friend, family member or workmate, asking them directly about their feelings can help to save their life.

The campaign understands that signs of suicide can be hard to spot, but encourages people to take all signs of distress seriously, even if the person seems to be living a normal life.

It also aims to assure people that asking a person about what’s troubling them can make a positive difference.

You tend to know when someone close to you isn’t quite themselves. So if you notice any changes in their behaviour that worry you – even if the signs come and go – ask them about it.

You’ll find that talking can help a person get clarity about what it is that’s troubling them, and often gives a sense of perspective. Starting a conversation is half the battle. You don’t need to have an answer to their problems – just be there for them, try to listen carefully without judging, and show that you care by offering support.

If it feels right, ask if they are thinking about suicide. It won’t put the thought in their head if it wasn’t there before, but it can be a big relief for them to be able to say, ‘yes, I am’ and acknowledge they need help.

The campaign seeks to raise awareness that suicide prevention is something that everyone can do. The people most at risk of suicide are men aged between 30-59, since statistics show that around three quarters of suicides have been men in every year since 1990.

To support people in the city to get behind the campaign, Choose Life has widely available information cards with simple ‘how to help’ steps, and leaflets such as the ‘Art of Conversation’ which gives advice on starting conversations about suicide and listening effectively.

The good news is that the numbers of deaths by suicide in Glasgow continue to fall significantly with the latest figures showing that that they are at their lowest level since current records began in the 1970’s.

The Choose Life partnership in Glasgow has made a key contribution by continuing to develop multi agency working involving the council, the Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership, the police, fire and rescue, and the third sector amongst others.

This year in Glasgow we are really pleased that we now have a third sector suicide prevention group established. This means that all the key voluntary organisations working with people in distress are now linking in to the wider multi agency Choose Life partnership in Glasgow.

Raising awareness of suicide prevention and giving the public information is a vital part of the Choose Life work. A host of activities will be taking place in Glasgow during Suicide Prevention Week, including information stalls in Buchanan Galleries, Asda in the Forge Shopping Centre and Queen Street station on 9 September.

In addition, also on the 9th, a Candlelight Celebration of Life event will be held at lunchtime in the Tranquility Garden at Gartnavel Hospital, from 12 until 2pm to support those affected by suicide. All are welcome to attend.

People in Glasgow can get information and advice on sources of support at any time by visiting our local web page too at

Pauline Toner is Choose Life co-ordinator at Glasgow City Council.