December 13 2013 Latest news:
Ramzy Alwakeel and Safira Ali
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Suicide is now the biggest killer of young men and a major public health issue for the UK. Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, the Recorder spoke to Havering Samaritans about its work.
107 North Street, Romford, RM1 1ER
You never know what it’s going to be until you pick up the phone.
That was the message from Havering Samaritans about the range of calls its volunteers answer every day.
The 70-strong team supports people who have been affected by, or are thinking of, suicide, as well as those affected by unemployment, mental health problems and relationship breakdowns.
But as World Suicide Prevention Day approaches, branch director Lianne Gordon said it was time for Samaritans to become more accessible.
“We want to seem less frightening and less ‘in the shadows’,” she said.
So what’s the plan?
For starters, the volunteers have been making themselves visible in busy places.
“We went to the Havering Show last month,” said Lianne, “and we’ve also been working with Network Rail staff to raise awareness. We have a presence at Romford Station about once a month during the morning rush hour.
“We just want people to know about the organisation.”
The presence at stations - which has seen suicides on the Liverpool Street to Shenfield line fall from 19 to five in the last year - is part of a national plan to reduce the number of railway suicides.
There’s a poster campaign, and station staff are trained to help people they think are at risk. Every few weeks, volunteers spend a few hours on the platform, giving out cards and lending an ear if anyone wants it.
It’s not that they aren’t already busy. In 2012 the Havering branch, based in North Street, Romford, was contacted 19,745 times through calls, texts, e-mail and drop-ins. The people who got in touch ranged from suicides in progress to lonely elderly people who needed someone to talk to.
But despite Samaritans’ work, latest figures show suicide in Havering is on the up: 21 people killed themselves here in 2011, compared with 19 in 2010 and 15 in 2009.
The rising numbers reflect a national trend. In 2011, 6,045 people took their own lives – an increase of 437 on the previous year.
Research by Samaritans – Men and Suicide: Why it’s a social issue – says the most “at-risk” are men aged 35 to 54 from deprived backgrounds. More than three-quarters of people who killed themselves in 2011 were men.
Now the charity is renewing its campaign to tackle suicide ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on Tuesday next week.
It’s organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention, the World Health Organisation and the World Federation for Mental Health.
To mark it, Samaritans will be holding a stall at Romford Market tomorrow (Saturday).
“We’ve been working with a group of young people to try and make Samaritans a bit more accessible for 16-to-18-year-olds,” explained Lianne. “They came to our branch in July and we talked to them about what we do and gave them a tour.
“They’re going to help us run a market stall to reach out to the people of Romford, and particularly their peer group.”
For nearly 12 months, Samaritans has been supporting the government’s Suicide Prevention Strategy, which has ploughed £1.5million into reducing the number of people who take their own lives.
But Lianne admitted the charity itself “could always do with more” volunteers.
“As a branch we cover a couple of night shifts a week,” she said. “Volunteers are expected to do one every couple of months.
“Havering Samaritans isn’t open 24 hours, but we work with other branches across London to provide a continuous service.”
A landlady locked herself upstairs whilst “fearless” burglars smashed apart five fruit machines in her pub – this was the second raid in the area in half an hour.