20-year-old Dale Coulthard from Carlisle is going to be walking Hadrian’s Wall on Friday 16 June. Dale is raising money for SOBS Cumbria in memory of his dad, Graham Telford, whom he lost to suicide last year.Read More
On Wednesday 7 June, the Suicide Safer Eden steering group is holding a public meeting at which anyone who lives or works in Eden - with an interest in helping to reduce loss of life by suicide - is welcome. The meeting will be held at the Penrith Rugby club starting at 5.00pm.Read More
Andy Carra, a 31-year-old graphic designer from Southport, is training to face an unknown fighter on Saturday 13 May. The event, run by White Collar Boxing Events, will be held at Liverpool Grand Central Hall. Andy is raising money for the Prostate Cancer Research Centre and SOBS Cumbria, the latter in memory of his dad, Paul Carapanagiotu, whom he lost to suicide last year.Read More
Whitehaven girls Stacey Weir and Lauren Graham are just five days away from free falling to the ground with nothing but air to hold on to. Why would they do such a thing, you ask? Well, they are braving the skies in memory of Stacey’s dad, John Hyncica.Read More
Most friends would spend their time shopping, watching films or meeting up for a coffee. Stacey Weir (29, Whitehaven) and Lauren Graham (26, Whitehaven) are not your average friends. They are going to be joining forces as they skydive to raise money for Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) Cumbria on Saturday 29 April. The pair are jumping in memory of Stacey’s dad, John Hyncica, who sadly took his own life in 2014.Read More
Last month, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) Cumbria was presented with a cheque for £500 from superstore giant, ASDA. The charity was suggested to ASDA by Trish Armstrong as one of three options for customers to vote for, and the people of Carlisle chose to support SOBS Cumbria.Read More
Karan Smith's interview with ITV news aired on our TVs on Saturday 10 September. During the interview, she highlighted why support groups such as SOBS Cumbria are so important for people who are dealing with bereavement by suicide.Read More
1000 candles were lit at Samye Ling (Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and Centre for World Peace and Health) lat month to represent the 1000 days that Alan Ritchie was in residence there. It has sadly been a year since Alan passed away. SOBS Cumbria’s John Brown attended the beautiful display; monks chanted and the candles were lit one-by-one by friends and family, in loving memory of Alan.Read More
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) Cumbria is pleased to announce that a new group has been set up in West Cumbria. Karan Smith has taken the initiative to facilitate the group, which is the third in Cumbria alongside groups in Carlisle and Kendal. She lost her son in 2010, when he was 21 years old, and first attended SOBS meetings over two years ago when they were held in Keswick. Since the Keswick group was relocated to Carlisle, there has been no specific support in West Cumbria for people bereaved by suicide.Read More
On Monday night more than 70 people attended a meeting at the Penrith Rugby Club to hear Kate Bainbridge talk about the utterly tragic consequences of losing her son Ben to suicide in June 2014. Kate bravely talked about the devastation caused to herself, her family and to Ben’s friends and colleagues, she also showed slides of Ben as he was growing up. This was an incredibly poignant way of illustrating the utterly devastating consequences of losing a loved on to suicide.
Juliet Gray, from Carlisle Eden MIND then went on to talk about the importance of prevention and crucially the importance of local people seeing this as a community wide public health that is everyone’s business issue that they can and must take an interest in.
People who attended were introduced to the ‘key messages’ that:
On average, one Cumbrian resident dies every week by suicide, a shocking statistic that should give us all real cause for concern.
She went on to say that ‘some suicides CAN be prevented’, she talked about steps people can and should take to support people who may be considering taking their lives.
Crucially she told the audience that we should all ask, ‘are you ok’ it won’t harm and ‘listen it might help. She went on to say that ‘many people with thoughts of suicide do, in some way, ask for help. Talking about suicide with someone does not increase the risk of suicidal behaviour and that local people should be ‘helpfully nosey’.
Just listening is one of the most helpful things you can do. Try not to judge, or to attempt to solve all of someone’s problems for them’.
This evening which although very emotionally challenging was very much appreciated by those who attended and many said, as a result of having attended that they would be taking direct action to encourage people to think differently about mental health and wellbeing in their community and work settings.
The event was organised as part of the Suicide Safer Eden Initiative which is a grass roots, bottom up, initiative to get local people throughout Eden District thinking about what they can do to help save a life and avoid the massive harm and devastation experienced by those people who lose loved ones to suicide.
In view of the success of this meeting the steering group will be giving serious consideration to the possibility of running the ‘event’ in different parts of Eden district if you would be interested in hosting it in your area please contact Juliet.
To find out more about the ‘Suicide Safer Eden Initiative’ or if you are interested in local training about suicide prevention, please contact Juliet Gray at email@example.com
SOBS Cumbria would like to say a BIG thank you to Shona Barlow for her amazing fundraising total of £1732 from taking part in the Born Survivor challenge.
Born Survivor is a grueling 10km course of brutal and unforgiving terrain. Shona and her team were put through their paces as they stampeded over, under and through a series of military style obstacles. Shona and the team were aching all over the next day but were extremely proud of their teamwork and happy they managed to complete the event (even if some dragging through the mud was involved to achieve this).
Shona was delighted and surprised by how much she managed to raise, “We raised a fantastic amount and never thought I'd get anything near that; the cold and mud was all worth it! We’re already looking at signing up for the next event!”
If you are taking part in any fundraising events and would like to nominate SOBS Cumbria as your charity then we will happily help to promote your efforts, simply get in touch either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, calling or texting Kate on 07930 473 971, or by sending a message to our Facebook page ‘SOBS Cumbria’.
Shona Barlow’s husband Paul, sadly took his life in 2014, and since then SOBS has been a lifeline for Shona. Due to the enormous help she received in the past 2 years, she wants to give something back to the charity.
Shona and the Annan Insaniacs are taking part in Born Survivor at Lowther Castle on 9 April, the group is made up of 12 Insanity fitness fanatics and they are all fundraising for SOBS. Born Survivor is not a race, it's a hardcore test of character, teamwork and determination. The course includes barbed wire crawls, epic slides, leaps of faith, long dark tunnels, monster walls, icy water and lots and lots of mud!
Having already smashed her target of £200 she has now increased this to £300.
If you wish to donate to Shona’s cause then please visit her Just Giving page, (link below) and help Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide continue support many more families that may find themselves bereaved by suicide.
Posted on Tuesday 23 February 2016
Don't be afraid to talk to people about their problems - that's the message today from a suicide prevention campaigner in Penrith.
John Brown's dad committed suicide over two decades ago - he now helps those bereaved by suicides.
It's as new figures from Samaritans show only a quarter of people in our region feel they can talk to someone when something's on their mind.
John says having someone to speak to about issues is the key to preventing future deaths:
"It's hugely important just being able to talk and I think the crucial thing is for people to listen - they don't necessarily have to say anything. Words aren't what matters - it's a touch or a bit of reassurance, just an expression of willingness to listen."
Around 50 people commit suicide in Cumbria every year - an average of almost one a week.
John says people need to be more open to having a conversation with those who might be having issues:
"People generally are afraid of mental health - certainly afraid of suicide - and anxious about asking somebody "are you ok?". They tend to be worried that they might make matters worse rather than better. The message very much from the bottom up is, it's not going to do harm."
The Samaritans have launched a national campaign to promote their own listening service - with the message 'We don't just hear you, we listen.'
John told CFM it's important support like Samaritans offer is available to people in Cumbria, especially after the recent floods:
"People who have been flooded, maybe several times over, may be having troubles with insurance and other agencies. It really troubles me that people may well be suffering from anxiety, stress and so on. I think it's just vital that they seek help, talk to somebody, and don't just keep it bottled up."
John's charity Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) supports those affected by suicide across the county - there's more information on their website.
Samaritans offer round-the-clock support to anybody who needs it via a free phone line - 116 123.
Every week in Cumbria, another person takes their own life, it’s a shocking figure and very difficult time for their families. Please see below transcript of ITV Border News interview with Paula Mart and John Brown from 10 Feb 2016
Male Reporter - The charity, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide or SOBS has set up a website as a route to offer help, support and someone to talk to. Fiona Marley Patterson has been talking with Paula Mart from Penrith, who lost her daughter 3 years ago.
Fiona MP -Paula’s daughter Jaymie led an adventurous life, she left Penrith to pursue a career in sports science in Peebles, and won silver in the world mountain bike championships. But when she was 31 she lost her battle with mental illness. She’d seen the GP and the hospital mental health team, including a trainee, the day before she died.
Paula Mart -I don’t feel in some ways as if I have suffered the grief that some people talk about, probably because it hasn’t registered with me, because Jaymie was such that she filled a room and you knew when she was about. Even when she was gone, you still felt that energy and it almost feels as if she’s still around somewhere and I don’t know whether it’s my mind sort of protecting me as it were in order to help me cope on a daily basis.
Fiona MP -Did you there was any difference in either how you dealt with it or how other people dealt with it because of how Jaymie died.
Paula Mart -I think you’ve got to gauge those people who you know that will talk about it and obviously those who perhaps don’t want to speak about it then it’s not something that you would force on other people. But I think it’s getting an awful lot better now, that people are talking more about it.
Fiona MP -And how has SOBS helped?
Paula Mart -You need to get it out, it needs to be sorted in your head, because luckily for us we knew why Jaymie got to this situation that she got herself into, why she died. But some people have not got an idea, and they are left with ‘perhaps I should have done this’ or ‘perhaps I should have done that’.
Fiona MP -The new Cumbria SOBS websites supports people like Paula, but she wants more. In the month before Jaymie died, Paula tried to get the numbers for her crisis team but was told they were confidential. She’s now campaigning for more support for families of people with a mental health condition. Fiona Marley Patterson, ITV Border news, Penrith.
Male Reporter -That’s Paula Mart’s story, John Brown joins us now, he’s from the charity, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS). John, you’re launching this new website. Tell us what you plan to achieve through this and what you’re going to offer.
John Brown -Yes. I mean suicide is a very difficult subject for anybody. Difficult to think about and difficult to get hold of. But I think that the crucial thing is that when somebody loses someone suicide, it’s the last thing they expect very often. So people are in complete shock, their lives are turned upside down and the important thing is that people are aware that there is a self-help organisation out there. Made up of people whom have all been bereaved who can offer help and support. The website, Facebook, twitter, we are using Social Media as a way to reach out to people and let them know that help and support can be available.
Male Reporter -So it’s an online development to the group. You yourself were bereaved, to the death of your father and then SOBS in Cumbria was started in 2009. It’s effectiveness, are you in no doubt as to how useful it’s been since then?
John Brown -Well what we did is called a public meeting to see whether there was a need and 20 people turned up and it was an incredibly powerful meeting where most of the people there had been bereaved. Some hadn’t, some were councilors and other people. It was very clear from that what people wanted was a group simply made up of other people who had been bereaved.
Male Reporter -And the fact that there was such a demand at a public meeting kind of goes against the misconception that we think of it as a taboo subject that’s kept behind closed doors and people don’t want to talk about. Perhaps people do want to talk or don’t know who to talk to or where to go.
John Brown -You know at the end of the day, losing someone to suicide is totally traumatising for friends, colleagues, neighbours. People are suddenly confronted with how to respond to that and quite often people will back away because they are scared to say the wrong thing, they’re scared to cause further upset or distress.
Male Reporter -Your website we know, offer some assistance in that regard, as does your group. But there are resources from public health as well. This booklet from Help is at Hand, which is something you recommend and people can draw upon. I want to talk briefly about, SOBS is for people who are bereaved due to suicide. Dealing with the prevention is a different issue all together though, isn’t it? An earlier step. What would you like to see implemented or how would you like to see that going forward as a society which is perhaps more prepared to discuss the subject now.
John Brown - Number one I think is being prepared to talk, I think a lot of work has been done in Cumbria strategically. Top down, police, Samaritans, NHS, ourselves. What we need I think is community engagement, community ownership. And in the Eden District where I live with a colleague Juliet from Mind. We called a public meeting and said ‘look If you have an interest in suicide prevention, come along’. 50 people turned up just on the back of an article in the local paper. And from that we’re trying to get local people to think about how they can approach this, not be scared of it. You get the chamber of trade engaged, we’ve got the FA engaged, you know with young men, through sport and so on. Many different ways
Male reporter – John you’ve given us a real insight. SOBS are the people to contact, we’ll put the details on our website.
John Brown -Thank you very much.
Every week, in Cumbria, another person loses their life to suicide. It's a shocking figure and, of course, a very difficult time for their families.
Fiona Marley Paterson has been talking with Paula Mart, from Penrith, who lost her daughter 3 years ago. Watch the full interview here (transcript below):
PM – Jaymie was always a very bright, happy bouncy young lady. Who never stopped at anything and always said if there was anything to be done of her she would do it. She was beautiful both inside and outside. But like any daughter, you know, she put me through it as it were. From time to time. I wasn’t certain when things definitely started changing but certainly towards the end of her life she experienced quite a few mental health issues. And in what stage in 2010, she was treated at the hospital in the borders. And then about a month before she died things really started getting on top of her and she felt that she wasn’t able to sleep, things were just going round and round. She went to the doctors, she did an interview with the doctor and he felt that she was showing signs of suicide or wanting to take her own life. And he gave her some sleeping tablets and thought that maybe if she could get some sleep that would be it. So that evening she took the sleeping tablets along with some other medication and some alcohol and the next day she called us to say that she’d been very sick. So because of the tablets she’d took I thought it was extremely important that she got to hospital. And she went to hospital and they kept her in for a night and then discharged her the next day. When we went to collect her we couldn’t find anyone to speak to and she came down to us and she wasn’t very well at all. And in fact while she was with us she had a bit of a crisis and we called the hospital and asked for numbers for her GP or for the crisis team and they said that they couldn’t give it to us because those numbers were confidential. So consequently we had to cope and manager her as best we could. She eventually went back to Peebles because she had to have an interview for a job and the following day after her job we thought thankfully she was going to see someone in the mental health team. She did, but unfortunately it was a trainee GP who we felt might not have had the skills that perhaps someone with more experience, given Jaymie’s history, might have had. However, the next day she took her own life.
Reporter – The GP was going away on holiday?
PM – That’s right, the GP had said that she was going to be going away on holiday and that she would discuss Jaymie’s medical situation with her colleagues and I think Jaymie (in the state that she was in) felt, yet again abandoned perhaps. We called her in the morning because she was going to be going up to Edinburgh the next day, we called her after lunch. We called that day and the afternoon and the evening and then we realised that she wasn’t answering her phone. So we thought maybe she’d gone visiting some friends, and we called someone who lived very close to her and had a little café shop near to her. And she went, and the flat was all dark and we managed to get hold of her very close friends who had a key to her flat, and they went in and found her.
Reporter – And how did you feel when she died, and how did you cope with it?
PM – Because of her condition, we sort of always wondered when or if we would get that knock on the door and the knock came. That knock came and the police came in and explained to us that they had found her dead. Which was an initial shock obviously, and I don’t know what it was but everything took over from there, we had to plan her funeral and one thing or another. Fortunately for me, I have got amazing friends in Penrith, very close friends and as I’ve said many times before, Penrith is a remarkable town where people, I think, are very generous, I remember once walking into town and someone just came and gave me a hug and that quite often happens in Penrith. I was lucky in the sense that people were able to talk to me or hug me. But I have heard of other cases, or even in Penrith where people cross the road when they see you coming. But fortunately for me, that didn’t happen and as I said before it’s an interesting thing. I don’t know whether you’ve seen ants carrying a twig or a leaf or something. That’s how I felt like. I felt as if people were carrying me like the ants would carry a leaf. And they’ve done that even up to now, they’ve been extraordinarily supportive and I can’t complain about that at all. So consequently I don’t feel in some ways as if I have suffered the grief that some people talk about. Probably because it hasn’t registered with me because Jaymie was such, she filled a room and you knew when she was about and even when she was gone you still felt that energy. And I don’t know whether it’s my mind sort of protecting me as they say, in order to cope on a daily basis. But I sometimes feel as if someone has taken my arm off. You have to go on, you have to cope without that arm, but you know that arms missing. And that’s how it feels, an imbalance.
Reporter – did you feel there was any difference in how you dealt with it or with how other people dealt with it because of how Jaymie died?
PM – Certainly my relatives at home, I know some of them, aren’t able to talk about that, I don’t know whether that’s all of them but I know some of them do and it’s very much a skirting over it. My friends will talk about it for as long as I will talk about it but I suppose there are some people that would prefer not to. So I think you’ve got to gauge who can or who will talk about it because there are those that perhaps don’t want to talk about it then it’s not something you would force on other people really. But I think it’s getting an awful lot better now that a lot of people are talking much more about it.
Reporter – And how has SOBS helped?
PM – I found the people at SOBS to be warm, welcoming, caring and non-judgmental. We have been two or three or four times and the beauty of sobs is that you don’t have to go every week, you don’t have to speak if you don’t want to speak. It’s interesting listening to other people’s stories because sometimes it helps you to feel as if you’re not alone in what you’re experiencing and because they have been through a similar scenario, they understand what your feelings are and they also do some marvelous cake. It’s nice to know that they’re there and even though we don’t access it every week, you know that you can go and they’ll be someone there to talk about it. SOBS is not for everyone, but it’s there for everyone. There’s some people that perhaps want a one to one and that’s where someone like Cruse comes in. But for people that feel comforted with the group scenario, certainly SOBS is the best thing for them I think.
Reporter – What other support were you getting from other organisations? And what did SOBS do specifically that either you weren’t getting from anywhere else or they just did it in a slightly better way?
PM – Because I don’t think I have come to that situation yet where I feel the grief or feel the pain, I don’t feel for the moment that it’s necessary to access any other group, but certainly SOBS is that comfort, that blanket that you can pull around you when it gets cold, if you need it. It’s just marvelous I think. The people there are just warming, very warm people. Lovely yeah.
Reporter – So what advice would have for someone else who’s maybe going through a similar thing?
PM – I think one of the main things is that they have to talk about it. Talk about anything that’s going through their minds at a certain time. Find a friend, who is willing to share that with you. Talk about it with the GP, with SOBS, with Cruse. It’s not a good thing to bottle up because it’s such an enormous experience or an enormous happening in your life. It’s not something that’s a regular thing that you can just cope with. You need to get it out, it needs to be sorted in your head, I mean luckily for us, we knew why Jaymie got to this situation that she got herself into or what happened to her and why she dies but some people haven’t an idea and they’re left with ‘perhaps I should’ve done that’. And it’s not fair to themselves to suffer that guilt, because in some situations, no matter what they could have done, or did, you know sometimes it bears no relation whatsoever to the fact that person decided to take their own life. They decided to take their own life because, for whatever reason they could perhaps not go through with it anymore. And the thing where people say it’s a selfish thing that they did, that I don’t think at all is a selfish act in the sense that, nobody would want to do that to hurt anybody else and if, for example, they thought about it, maybe they wouldn’t have done it. Because of their state and their mental state, they are unable to see their way through that. They feel that perhaps that’s the only thing they can do. I read something recently that somebody had said and I don’t know whether this is an analogy or what, but it’s either jumping out of the window or being burnt in a burning room. And perhaps that’s the dilemma that they’re left with. So I think people have got to talk and got to see their way through it. And it’s no good pretending that it hasn’t happened and I’ll just carry on with life. You have got to talk about it, whatever the circumstances.
Reporter – That’s interesting then, because that question is something we grapple with whenever someone dies, do you think then the key, to dealing with suicide is, talking to someone about mental health when they’re still alive?
PM – I think, because, before she died she talked at length with us about various problems and we tried to work them through with her and we knew what had caused her problems and why certain things had happened the way that they’d happened. So when you look at what she had in her life at the time, somebody else would of cope with that, but she couldn’t cope with it, because what she had in her life at the time was enormous. So consequently, we were not at all surprised in that sense. What we were surprised about was the way in which she had actually taken her life. And that was the hard thing for us to have to deal with. Because I am also struggling to see whether there can be changes in the mental health situation. Things like trying to get the hospital to make sure friends and families have got those contact numbers, to involve them the care and so on and I’m battling to try and get that, so I guess that’s sort of given me a focus dealing with it. One of the things we were unable to get were Jaymie’s notes from the hospital and we felt that by seeing those notes we would have some understanding to as whether or not they actually got the measure of her illness and therefore whether they actual amount of time they saw her would enable them to understand the nature of her illness but we were told again because of NHS confidentiality they were unable to let us see her notes. So it’s difficult really for us to see it from that perspective. The only way to do that was to go through a solicitor and we didn’t want to do that. I certainly don’t want to feel as if we are blaming anyone, it’s just trying to look at it and see the different angles that people could make changes. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that.
As shocking suicide figures are announced from the Office of National Statistics, John Brown and Paul Mart share their stories and personal experiences with Radio Cumbria. See interview and transcript below.
John Brown (Survivors of bereavement by suicide Cumbria group): JB
Paula Mart (Daughter Jaymie Mart lost to suicide): PM Mark Smith (Head of suicide prevention and mental health for British transport police): MS
Sian Hall (news reader): SH
Male Presenter: MP
SH: One person in Cumbria takes their own life every week, that’s according to figures from the office for national statistics. A charity working to help those who are bereaved says 700 people in Cumbria are directly affected by the suicide rates and is calling for more of them to be helped to prevent further deaths. Mark Smith is head of suicide prevention and mental health for the British transport police, speaking to BBC Radio Cumbria this morning he says they try and give staff as much guidance as possible on suicides.
MS: We keep quite a substantial amount of information on our system in relation to people that do threaten suicide/ attempt suicide and also the locations where those events occur and we use that to inform our patrol patterns in working with the industries security staff and volunteers to try and put ourselves in the place where perhaps you can expect to find people in distress.
MP: One person in Cumbria takes their own life every week, and according to the office for national statistics there’s no sign in any reduction in the misery this causes for those who are left behind. One place it sometimes happens, is sadly, on a rail way line. Mark Smith is the head of suicide prevention and mental health for British transport police. Earlier, he told me the force is working with the NHS to try and reduce the number of people who take their own life.
MS: Mental health nurses, police officers and police staff, work together all day and what they do is they review the incidents that have occurred in the last 24 hours, they will possibly speak to officers that are dealing with incidents on the network and they will try and make sure that people get into the appropriate care pathways locally to get support and hopefully get on the road to recovery. And this is generally after someone has either tried to take their own life or presented in crisis on the network.
MP: Well let’s talk about this some more now with two people who unfortunately know the pain of a suicide all too well. Paula Mart, from Penrith, whose daughter Jaymie took her own life joins me now, along with John Brown, who’s set up the Cumbrian branch of the national charity, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide or SOBs, following the suicide of his father. Good morning to you both, thanks for coming. It can’t be easy still for you now but I appreciate you coming in and in the next few minutes or so hopefully the conversation we have you know if you just help one person it’s been worthwhile. Paula tell us a bit about Jaymie, what was she like?
PM: Jaymie was a bit of a whirlwind, happy, bouncy. Tried to get me to do everything that she wanted me to do and sometimes I just had to say ‘Woah’ you know because she had a boundless energy and a wonderful, wonderful personality. If it was to be done, she did it. And an amazing, just an amazing young person, that sort of got everything there was to get out of life.
MP: Did you have any indication that she would end her own life?
PM: No. We didn’t have any indication whatsoever. She did struggle with an awful lot of problems through her life and you know I sort of knew sometime that she perhaps would you know need some further care but I never thought for one minute that she would end her life. I thought perhaps one day that she would sort of come off her bike, because she was a downhill mountain biker. And that perhaps I’d have to deal with that one day but she wasn’t the kind of person that you would think that you know would end her life the way in which she did it.
MP: And John whilst Paula lost her daughter, you lost your father?
JB: Yes I did. I mean it’s over 20 years ago now. 26th January. Anniversaries never go away, they’re always powerful reminders. 26th January just last month. My dad was a rural GP, he suffered with what was then called manic depression or now bipolar disorder, for many years. And there can be an increased risk with that particular condition, because of the nature of it, so in a sense for me, there was always the possibility that this might happen. But that’s in complete contrast to many, many other people who die through suicide. Where it’s a complete total shock, absolutely out of the blue.
MP: What prompted you then to set up SOBS in Cumbria? What made you really want to push on with doing your bit, as it were?
JB: Well what happened, was in 2009, John Ashton, the then director of Public Health was very concerned about the incidents of loss through suicide in Cumbria as you’ve already said a person every week, above the national average and he set up a working, well he had a two-day conference to look at how might agencies address prevention and a consequence of that a suicide prevention group was set up. Very ably chaired by Jade Matterson from Public Health, now at the County Council and at the time I was a non-executive director at the partnership trust and had a particular interest in patient safety for obvious reasons. And I said I would like to be involved and one of the things that quickly became evident through the early work of that group was that there nothing specific in Cumbria for people who’d been bereaved through suicide and that is a very, very isolating experience.
MP: You say isolating, what do you mean?
JB: Well I mean Paula will I’m sure come in, but you know for instance people, friends, neighbours, colleagues. A – there’s the complete shock and trauma and B – there’s the ‘I don’t know what to say and I might say the wrong thing’ so quite often people will back away, shy away, not say anything. Rather than, connect with people. And I think what I would say in response to that is you know it’s not about words, actually, it’s about trying to get alongside people and be with them rather than try and use the words.
PM: That’s right, yes, I know of people where this has happened and where they would go across the other side of the road rather than talk to someone.
PM: Yes, who’s been through that, and fortunately for me, I’ve been very, very lucky because I have an amazing group of friends in Penrith, who’ve been extraordinarily supportive and the people of Penrith as well as far as I’m concerned, you know so many people have come up and given me a hug which is so important. Just because you have that little bit to go on and at one point I felt as if I was a leaf being taken along with a lot of ants.
PM: You know, with the support that I have had, its lots of people there supporting. But I know that that is not a common experience.
MP: Can you, I mean that’s a wonderful analogy that you’ve picked. A picture you’ve painted as to the support you’ve gained. But can you just give us an idea as to the, because one of the things we’re talking about this morning is the impact on the families and friends who are left behind, what was the impact if you could put it into words Paula for you and your family.
PM: At first of all it was a shock. And sort of trying to come to terms with the fact that that person is no longer there and I know that there is some of my friends who still haven’t come to terms with it. And you know my son, for example, he’s trying to find his way through it as well. I think for me, because Jaymie was such a force to be reckoned with, it almost feels as if she’s still here with me. And I don’t think I’ve come to terms with that even now.
MP: Do you think you ever will?
PM: I don’t know, and for some people the grief or the pain is immediate and it goes on. For other people, it’s different. And I think because people don’t feel it immediately doesn’t mean to say there’s something wrong with them. Because everyone deals with it in different ways. And no way is a right way to deal with it.
MP: John, clearly it’s important to help those who have been impacted by suicide. You two are prime examples of that. Surely though, it’s just as important to try and prevent the suicide happening in the first place?
JB: Yes, absolutely, I agree completely. And this group I’ve talked about are absolutely committed to that its’s a multi-agency group and you’ve got voluntary organisations, you’ve got the Samaritans you’ve got us you’ve got mind. Alongside the police, the partnership trust, the county council and so on, a huge amount of effort goes into looking at what are we doing, what can we do, how can we change that statistic. I mean I’m very cautious about statistics because at the end of the day every death is a disaster and the fact is we have far too many of them and the consequences roll on for years and years. But I think that group is doing what they can but I think strongly that with my background as a social worker that the community have a big responsibility here. We have to get local people to think about having a positive approach to mental health and mental wellbeing, and thinking about how to provide support. The problem is if somebody seems as though they may be not quite right people’s instinct is to back away, they are scared of mental illness, they’re scared of saying the wrong thing. You know they intend to back away, but what we want to try and encourage people to do is turn the telescope round, look at it from the other end, so that prevention isn’t simply seen as ‘oh you’ve got to go to the experts’ but actually that we as local people have a responsibility and within Eden District where we both live, I mean I was in social services there for many years, so built good networks, we’re trying a bit of an experiment, we put an advert (this is myself and Julie Gray from Mind who does a lot of training around suicide prevention) and what we did is we put an advert in the Herold (local paper) saying we think suicide prevention should be a community concern, if people are interested let’s have a public meeting and see what happens. We thought we might get 6/10/15 people, we had 50 people come in, from the community, standing room only.
MP: Very quickly I’d like to just end on a couple of positives. Just tell us Paula, first of all, about JayFest? What’s been done in honor of Jaymie?
PM: Well Jayfest was a little festal set up in Peebles and it ran for two years, now they’ve taken a break last year and I think this year because lots of people have got other things to do. But they are hoping at some stage to sort of come back and they raised a lot of money. Some of it went to SOBs, some of it went to prevention in Peebles and so on. And the other thing I wanted very quickly to say is that when it does go to professionals, please, it would be great if people (friends and families) were involved and if they could have numbers for GPs and crisis teams and so on. So that when these people are in crisis they know who to get hold of.
MP: Lovely, Paula. And John, very quickly the website address for SOBs?
JB: Yeah, it’s www.sobs-cumbria.org.uk
MP: Thanks and thank you very much for talking to us this morning and sharing your very sad and tragic stories with us and hopefully by being positive and by giving the website address we’ve given some good this morning. Thanks both.
Suicide accounts for almost four times as many deaths resulting from road traffic accidents in the UK, with an average of 50 people taking their own lives in Cumbria each year; an average of one life every week.
Each suicide is thought to directly affect between six and 14 people: parents, partners, children, siblings, friends, work colleagues, teachers, health care professionals. This means that for those 50 suicides in Cumbria, between 300 and 700 people are affected each year as a result of these deaths. Sadly, statistics show that those bereaved by suicide actually have an increased risk of suicide themselves.
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) is a registered national charity with the express aims of supporting those affected by suicide. It has over 60 branches across England, Wales and Scotland, one of which is SOBS Cumbria, established in November 2010.
SOBS Cumbria is run by a group of volunteers, all of whom have been affected by suicide themselves. They offer informal monthly self-help groups in Carlisle and Kendal and are currently assessing the need for a group in West Cumbria. The group has been contacted by over 150 people bereaved by suicide since 2005, but statistics show that there are many more people who may be in need of support, but may be unaware of the group’s existence.
In an attempt to raise awareness of the support that SOBS Cumbria can provide, the group is pleased to announce the launch of their very own website (www.sobs-cumbria.com) and social media channels. In addition to a closed Facebook group that group members can use as a private place to seek solace with others in similar situations, SOBS Cumbria is now using Facebook and Twitter as additional knowledge bases.
The website is full of advice and resources for people bereaved by suicide, including a comprehensive book shop, videos and various downloadable sources of information. Importantly, it details a number of donation channels, as the group could not exist without such funding. Indeed, it was a generous donation from the organisers of JayFest (a mountain biking festival held in the memory of downhill mountain biker Jaymie Mart) that enabled SOBS Cumbria to develop the website, social media and online channels.
John Brown, founder of SOBS Cumbria and bereaved by his father’s suicide, said, “SOBS provides a service that none of us wish or expect to use, it’s only when the crisis of the suicide of a loved one, a friend or a colleague occurs that we need the support. The launch of the new SOBS Cumbria website and social media now means that we can try to raise awareness in a much more effective way than by the use of traditional communications channels alone and that people can access our services more easily. Anyone who lives in Cumbria, however, will know that word of mouth is usually the most effective means of spreading the message, so we are keen to get people talking and that the online resources will be accessed by people who would like to know how we can help them.”
Paula Mart, who lost her daughter Jaymie to suicide, said of SOBS Cumbria, “The SOBS group in Cumbria are very special. They are non-judgemental and very supportive. It is great to know that there are others, because they have had a similar experience and understand what you have been through or are going through. It is also good to have somewhere to go where you can talk openly and confidentially about difficult experiences and feelings and know that, by sharing those thoughts, feelings and experiences, there are those who are in a position to offer helpful suggestions and strategies, which I found very useful.”
Jane Mathieson, Consultant in Public Health and Chair of the Cumbria Suicide Prevention Group, said, “SOBS Cumbria has filled a real gap since 2010 for people who have been bereaved by suicide; it is a responsive group of people who provide a lifeline to people who have been affected by suicide. The multi-agency suicide prevention group (that I Chair and on which SOBS Cumbria are represented) is indebted to the members of this wholly voluntary peer support group who offer a degree of hope to those people whose lives have been devastated by suicide, in a compassionate and non-judgmental way.”
If you have been bereaved by suicide and would like to talk to someone, please contact us. Our volunteers who will answer your call, text or email have been bereaved by suicide themselves and are fully trained in supporting others in the same situation. We don't mind whether you contact us by phone, text, email or social media. You can visit us at www.sobs-cumbria.org.uk/website for full contact details.
Click here to listen to John Brown and Paula Mart's interview with Radio Cumbria.