"Listen to them now before it is too late" - men being urged to speak about mental health
PUBLISHED: 23:25 08 September 2019
Suicide is on the rise across Norfolk and England and a high proportion of victims are men. Reporter SOPHIE WYLLIE spoke to people affected by suicide and finds out what is being done to support people struggling with their mental health.
"If someone is brave enough to say they have a problem, listen to them now before it is too late."
That is the message from Beverley Bishop, a grieving mother whose 20-year-old son, Jess Fairweather, took his own life in October 2018 just two weeks after starting his law degree at the University of East Anglia.
Ms Bishop, 50, from Prince of Wales Road in Cromer, said: "It is important to raise awareness of suicide. It is everybody's responsibility. We all need to learn to listen. If someone wants to talk, give them time to talk."
Her youngest son was one of 465 males who took their own life in 2018 across the East of England.
That figure has risen from 346 in 2017 and 395 in 2016, according to recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.
In comparison there were 149 females who died from suicide in 2018 in the East of England.
That figure rose from 122 in 2017 and 131 in 2016.
When compared to the eight other regions in England the East of England had the fourth highest number of male and female suicides in 2018.
According to the 2019 Norfolk suicide audit three quarters of people dying by suicide are males, 76pc, and a third of all people who die by suicide are aged 45-59.
And since 2009 and 2018, there have been 829 deaths by suicide in Norfolk, according the ONS.
World Suicide Prevention Day is being marked on September 10 and during this month, Norfolk County Council public health is working with different organisations to promote support for people at risk of suicide, in particular men.
These include Norwich-based groups Menscraft, which provide social activities and relaxed environments where men can talk about their feelings, and The Outsiders, which train people who work with the public to speak with men about their mental health.
Dr Louise Smith, director of Public Health, said: "Suicides in the UK have increased, a trend that we have also seen here in Norfolk. And whilst this may be due to a change in the way data is being reported, we strongly believe that one suicide is one too many.
"Suicide prevention is a huge priority for us at Norfolk County Council...it's encouraging to see so many new initiatives being launched."
In July 2018, the standard of proof used by coroners to determine whether a death was caused by suicide was lowered to the civil standard - balance of probabilities - where previously a criminal standard was applied - beyond all reasonable doubt.
Tracey Brown, from Cromer, whose 19-year-old son Nyall Brown died in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in May 2018, said there was still a stigma over talking about suicide and young men opening up about their feelings.
An inquest heard how Mr Brown had struggled with his mental health for a number of months.
Mrs Brown, 40, said: "Suicide cannot be a taboo subject anymore. People cannot carry on with this British stiff upper lip, especially among young men."
Tim Allard, development manager of Menscraft which offers social activities for men at risk of suicide before clinical intervention, said men were particularly at risk of these feelings because many had suffered trauma and felt shame over these feelings.
He said: "We are trying to get away from the usual laddish banter."
Sir Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, said: "Suicide rates are stubbornly high. It is not a weakness to speak about your mental health."
Mr Lamb, who set up the Norman Lamb Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund, said Norfolk had a "massive way to go" in terms of reducing waiting times for urgent mental health appointments.
He added more needed to be done to improve the access to the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) crisis phone line.
Diane Hull, NSFT chief nurse, said that most people who took their own life would not have tried to access mental health support.
She added: "We would encourage everyone to play their part by looking out for the people around them.
"Suicide in men is significantly more common than in women, and men are often more reluctant than women to seek help for problems like stress and anxiety so NSFT launched our Men's Wellbeing Project in 2016 to encourage men to talk about their problems and to seek support."
She added the trust is a member of the Zero Suicide Alliance, which is a coalition of NHS organisations, emergency services, councils, charities, large employers and community groups who all support the ambition of creating a world where suicide does not exist.
For more support and advice visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/iamokay or download The Stay Alive app.
Call 0300 123 1503 for Wellbeing Norfolk and Waveney service.
Extra support on offer for people bereaved by suicide
Families and friends of loved ones who have taken their own lives are receiving extra support.
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has appointed a specialist family liaison officer to increase the support provided to people bereaved by suicide.
Jenni Carvey will work across both counties, offering a listening ear to families and signposting them to charities and groups.
Mrs Carvey said: "Suicide is already incredibly traumatic for the family so making sure families are given the right support afterwards is vital."
Norfolk and Waveney Mind is also running a support group called the Anchor Project which supports loved ones of people who died from suicide.
Sonja Chilvers, head of recovery at Norfolk and Waveney Mind, said: "The Anchor Project was born out of recognising there was a desperate need to support people bereaved by suicide in Norfolk."