Breaking the taboo of talking about suicide can help others

Andrew Stronach.

Andrew Stronach. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

A Norwich father-of-three who tried to take his own life has spoken candidly about his experience in a bid to encourage people to talk more openly about suicide.

Andrew Stronach hopes that by speaking out on World Suicide Prevention Day, he can encourage people to seek help.

The 44-year-old, from Thomas Wyatt Close, said: 'Suicide remains quite a big taboo in this country and that's not terribly helpful.'

He added: 'I was 41 at the time – I now know that's the age when men are most at risk – and wrapped up with a very difficult relationship breakdown and wrapped up with stress at work as well.'

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He said men in particular were notoriously bad at asking for help, avoid going to the GP for even physical ailments, and shy away from opening up to friends or family about their emotions and troubles.

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Mr Stronach said: 'I completely understand when somebody says they feel utterly, utterly helpless and the only option is to end it all.

'I have been there and I understand how somebody can get to that position, but it's not the answer.

'I have always thought of myself as someone who coped really well with pressure, was calm in a crisis, had broad shoulders, was level-headed and sensible.

'But it's easy for other events to pile up on you and suddenly your shoulders aren't as broad as you thought and you are struggling.'

Mr Stronach was working as communications director for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at the time of his suicide attempt, and contacted the staff occupational therapist for help.

He was sceptical about taking a counselling course but said it was a 'life-saver' and helped him to make positive changes, such as setting up his own communications business and he is now looking forward to getting married next year.

'When you have that conversation with work colleagues, or family and friends you will find that people are really sympathetic and can and will help you,' he said.

However, he said options include talking to a GP or calling the Samaritans for support.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), works with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health, to host World Suicide Prevention Day, which is being supported locally by Norfolk and Suffolk's mental health trust and Norwich's Samaritans.

Suicide rates in the UK have been falling since records started in 1981 and the number of suicides in Norfolk and Waveney has also been falling over that time. Suicide rates locally are lower than the national average and are broadly in line with the regional average.

Anna Vizor, consultant clinical psychologist at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: 'Talking about suicide or suicidal feelings remains a big taboo in our society and that taboo stops us talking about alternatives to suicide, ways of increasing hope, and other less final solutions.

'We can all do more to prevent people feeling that taking their own life is the solution.

'Communities as a whole can play a part in talking more openly about suicide, thinking about who is at risk, and developing themselves so that they provide people with hope, opportunity, occupation and value within their lives.'

David, director of The Samaritans (Norwich), said: 'There is a common misconception that talking about suicide makes people more likely to take their own life but it's not the case.

'In our experience, very often people need someone to talk to and that feeling of being isolated, especially in more rural areas, just makes matters worse.'

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