Health leads in Suffolk are uniting in a message of support for anyone struggling to cope this festive season, calling on people to seek help and not to struggle alone.
Around 60 people die by suicide in Suffolk every year, with Christmas and New Year an especially challenging time for many, especially those who have been bereaved.
The call on people not to suffer in silence over the holiday period is part of a new approach to support good mental health in Suffolk. Suffolk Lives Matter aims to get people to talk openly, while raising awareness of the support available to help people manage their mental health.
Halesworth resident Blair Williams, who is 61, has struggled with his mental health for a number of years. Thanks to support from wife Tracie and, more recently, the Halesworth Men’s Sheds project, Blair is experiencing a more positive outlook on life.
He said: “Christmas can be a very lonely time for people who live with mental health issues, and I for one find it a painful time of year. The important thing is to talk to close loved ones, support workers or others about how you feel. Men especially tend to clam up, however talking about your feelings will always clear a path and help make decisions that will help to make things more liveable.
“My wife and I talked about what we will be doing at Christmas and have decided to drive to the North Norfolk coast, to enjoy this time together and relax.”
Cllr Tony Goldson, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and chairman of the Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “We are fortunate to have some outstanding support services here in Suffolk who are ready to listen and offer advice as necessary.
“The main message is that help is available, from informal networks and groups to our professional services. Also, if you are concerned about the wellbeing of others, from friends to family members, you can seek advice about how you can help.”
Sue Gray, Head of Operations at Suffolk Mind, said: “We all have mental health and we’re all on a continuum or spectrum, with ill health at one end and mental wellbeing at the other. This means we experience good days and bad. It’s important to recognise this as it helps us to empathise with others and to understand how we can take steps to be more resilient in the face of life’s stresses.
“There’s no doubt this can be a difficult time of year for some, but help is available. Each one of us can play our part by looking after friends, loved ones and neighbours this Christmas and New Year, being prepared to listen and offering a helping hand if needed.”
This time of year can be particularly poignant for those who have been directly affected by suicide. Suzy Clifford leads the Suffolk branch of the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SoBs) group. She said: “Suicide is a serious, complex and often misunderstood grief. SoBS can help by teaching survivors coping strategies specific to this grief, and how to live with suicide as part of their long term legacy. Perhaps more importantly we are user led, speak the same language and offer realistic hope for the future.”
A summary list of organisations who offer help in the county is available from www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/suffolklivesmatter or from the Suffolk InfoLink directory.
While no single organisation is responsible for preventing suicide, a range of professionals from the voluntary and charity sector, clinical commissioning groups, local councils, police, HealthWatch Suffolk, the coroner’s office and mental health services all play a crucial role.