Council vehicles help to raise suicide prevention awareness

Suicide is a subject which sadly touches many lives. And particularly in these difficult times, knowing what to do and how to help someone who is feeling suicidal can make a huge difference. East Ayrshire Council’s Here to Listen suicide prevention campaign has taken a step forward with the installation of new graphics on vehicles used by their Housing Asset Services team, whose job is to renovate, repair and maintain council properties throughout the area.

Suicide is one of the main causes of death in Scotland, with two people dying by suicide each day. Preventing it is everyone’s business. And anyone can help prevent it by knowing the signs and acting on them when they see it in others.

Here to Listen was introduced two years ago to support both Council employees and communities to talk openly about suicide, reduce the stigma and work together to help prevent further lives being lost.

Since it was introduced, the Here to Listen campaign has had a far reaching and positive impact on both employees and communities. So far 72 employees and 21 volunteers throughout the area have become trained Suicide First Aiders, having attended the Applied Suicide Intervention Training Skills (ASIST) training, with hundreds more attending Suicide Awareness sessions. These people help raise awareness and provide support throughout East Ayrshire to those in crisis.

The Here to Listen internet page has a number of suicide prevention resources, including Support Directories, with both local and national suicide support contact details such as addictions, bereavement and bullying in one place under specific topic headings. It also contains links to get in touch with Suicide First Aiders from the Council and communities who can be contacted directly to offer support to anyone who may be having suicidal thoughts.

David Doran, Health and Safety Manager at East Ayrshire Council explains: "Through collaborative working with our employees and our communities, we continue to raise awareness, reduce the stigma and encourage people to seek help when they need it. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy but through working together we can raise awareness of the support and resources that are available for everyone. No-one need go through this on their own and during this pandemic it has never been more important to keep our workforce and our communities safe.

“The idea to use the Council’s fleet to raise awareness of suicide and the Here to Listen campaign and resources came from one of our Housing Asset Services joiners and member of our Young Person's Cabinet, Cameron Girvan. It was a fantastic contribution and if by putting these graphics on our fleet helps remind just one person to reach out for help, then it will have been worthwhile."

Cameron Girvan said: “I got involved with suicide prevention after seeing the effects it has on families throughout our communities during the process of suicide happening. From when they first see the signs and not being able to help and not knowing who could help, and to the aftermath of losing someone to suicide.

“I wanted to be able to give people in need someone to turn to, someone who could help and be able to show them that there are plenty of organisations that can help them get through a traumatic time in their lives. It’s important that our communities have some knowledge about suicide, knowing that there is help available for everyone who needs it.

“Since I got involved with Here to Listen and was ASIST trained to help people, I feel it has made me more compassionate to people I don’t know. It’s made me realise that we never really know what others could be going through, and that a person with suicidal thoughts can hide it under a smile. I have noticed since Here to Listen started  that our employees have taken notice of it and have been looking after each other and some have come to us and shown their concern for their colleagues which I think is brilliant. Years ago that would have never happened but now people do take note of it.”

Barry Young from Housing Asset Services said: “I got involved with Here to Listen right from the very start as I was one of the first group of employees to take the ASIST course back in December 2018. I suppose being a Union rep within the workplace and helping people with their issues at work, I felt it was something I would be comfortable doing.

“The work the local authority has done on this campaign has been nothing short of incredible, from where it started to where it is now is amazing and the help and support network that has been built up is great.

“In Housing Asset Services we lost one of our employees to suicide which was heartbreaking for the family, and also for the employees who knew him and worked with him. If I can prevent someone else from taking their own life and get them the help that they need then I will do that.

“Since doing the training I have been involved directly with four interventions, both within the workplace and within our local community, in each of these occasions we have been successful in getting the person the help that they required. The partnership with the Council and the charity Beautiful Inside and Out has been instrumental in providing the support. During one of the interventions I was involved in, the individual was speaking to a counsellor within two hours of me first making contact with them."

Provost Jim Todd backed up the sentiments, saying: “It’s great to speak to Cameron and Barry and hear that what they’re doing is changing attitudes and making an active difference – they really are lifesavers. And they’re using their positions in the Young Person’s Cabinet and the Union to make sure they help as many people as possible. I’ve long supported efforts to help tackle suicide and I’m sure that with the dedication of those carrying forward the Here to Listen message we can help to change lives for the better.

"Thanks to Cameron’s suggestion we hope that seeing the logo on our vans will serve as a reminder to everyone that they’re not alone. If they’re suicidal or worried about a loved one, there is help available from people who really do care - they just need to let us know.”

Find out more about Here to Listen and how to make contact on East Ayrshire Council’s webpage