“Christmas isn’t always picture perfect, but being able to talk about that could actually save lives.”
That’s the message of Vicky Henderson, who is part of an Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership group tackling suicide prevention.
For alongside the merriment and joy many will encounter over the holiday period, it’s a time known to magnify the pain of bereavement, feelings of isolation, and the pressures of financial worry.
All of which, she says, are known contributing factors for suicide in the north of Scotland.
“I think we’re beginning to see a change in conversation at this time of year, be that within local communities or on social media. That the festivities are not perfect for everybody.
“We certainly know from our ongoing work that issues such as debt and relationship breakdowns are prevailing factors when someone has died by suicide here in the north-east.”
But hope is out there in the form of a mobile phone app.
It offers help if you are struggling before or during a crisis, but it’s also a tool for anyone wanting to be equipped to help others.
Everyone should download it
“We want to create communities where suicide is everyone’s business,” added Vicky
“This means educating and empowering people to be able to talk about it, be that your hairdresser or postie. The app really does help with that.
“And if you are struggling yourself, take a minute now and download the app.”
With 139,000 users since it launched in the north-east in 2016 and thousands more through Highlands and Islands counterpart, the suicide prevention app offers easy-to- access support, no matter where you live in the north of Scotland.
Help yourself, and others
Siobhan Leen is NHS Highland’s Health Improvement Specialist.
She added: “It is very important to keep promoting that this is available to anyone who may need it.
“This can include someone in distress, a family member or loved one, or practitioners working in Highland communities.
“It also includes guidance on what members of the public can do to help someone who is feeling suicidal.”
Including conversational support tools, there’s also a section on signs to look out for, and what you can do to help.
“We know Christmas can be a tough time for many people. We would encourage everyone to download the app to have it on hand. It’s a way to help look after ourselves, and to keep an eye on our loved ones this festive period.”
“We are delighted to be working with the Press and Journal to raise awareness of this vital resource.”
Happiness is possible again
Fiona Weir of Shirley’s Space in Crimond – one of the organisations that helped develop the app – spoke to the Press and Journal recently about her own journey with loss through suicide.
Both her husband and son died by suicide and in the aftermath of losing her child Fiona confessed to being “in a very dark place” herself.
She said: “I had a plan. I did. Thankfully I didn’t go through with it. I kept thinking about those I would leave behind and instead I fought back.”
Recently remarried, she added: “There is a road to happiness again. I’m grateful I didn’t choose to end my life because I have a good life today. There is hope.”
- If you need to speak to someone confidentially, the Samaritans are available day or night, on 116 123.
- You can also call Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 or scan the QR codes above to download the free app.