Dr David Crichton’s blog: You don’t have to be an expert to help

This is a transcript of my My View column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 5 September, 2016

I was nominated by Doncaster Star editor David Kessen to complete the 22 push-ups in 22 days challenge and, as I write this, I’m beyond the half-way stage.

The challenge started in the US where studies into military veterans’ mental health have revealed that, owing to the enduring trauma of active service and upheaval associated with going back to civilian life, 22 ex-servicemen and women are taking their own life every day. That’s one every 65 minutes.

The campaign has gone viral via social media, similar to the way the Ice Bucket Challenge did a couple of years ago.

As an ex-serviceman, I know the health and social problems that veterans can face when they leave the forces and here in Doncaster the NHS is working closely with Doncaster Council to look at how we can support those who live in the Borough.

This Saturday (10th September) is World Suicide Prevention Day, providing a timely reminder that anyone can play an important part in supporting people who may have suicidal thoughts.

The World Health Organisation estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year – one person every 40 seconds. But experts reckon that up to 25 times as many people make a suicide attempt. So, potentially, many of us could have been close to someone who has tried to take his or her life.

In the 20 years to 2014, some 563 people aged over 15 have ended their life in Doncaster through suicide and intended injury – an average of one person every fortnight. It’s a chilling statistic, and Doncaster’s death rate has been consistently higher than the national average over the two decades.

So how can you help? Mental health charity MIND has useful information at www.mind.org.  If you think someone might be feeling unwell, don’t be afraid to ask how they are. Anyone can experience a mental health problem, so being able to talk about it is important to us all. And you don’t need to be an expert on mental health. Often, small everyday actions can make the biggest difference.

They might want to talk about it, or they might not. But just letting them know they don’t have to avoid the issue with you is important. Just spending time with the person lets them know you care and can help you understand what they’re going through.

If you’re worried that someone is at immediate risk of taking their own life, you should stay with that person and take one of the following steps:

  • encourage them to ring the Samaritans, 116 123, open 24 hours a day
  • contact their GP for an emergency appointment or the out of hours service
  • ring 999 or NHS direct on 111
  • go to the nearest A&E department.

If someone has attempted suicide, you should ring 999 and stay with them until the ambulance arrives.

 

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