We are all responsible for suicide prevention – as individuals and as a community

Lourdes Colclough is Rethink Mental Illness’ Head of Suicide Prevention. She talks to us about the part we play in suicide prevention and demonstrates the power of the community to change and save lives.

Trigger warning: This article mentions suicide


Every year on 10 September communities and organisations around the world come together to raise awareness of how to build an environment where less people die by suicide. How well are we doing on that? It’s complex.

If, after reading this blog, you only remember one thing I hope it’s this: you don’t have to be a clinician with reams of qualifications on paper to do this. We can all help through timely active listening and knowing where to signpost for further help. Traditionally we tell people to go and see their GP, not wrong, but you can also listen well to that person, encourage them to open up, rather than panic and close the conversation down immediately. After you’ve listened and spoken to them you can signpost to other organisations like Samaritans

Evidence suggests that top-down government suicide prevention strategies must be implemented alongside a grassroots approach to decrease rates of suicide. Communities and individuals like you play a vital role in suicide prevention when providing roads between community needs, national policies, and evidence-based interventions.

North West London ICS and  Rethink Mental Illness have given grants of £237,000 to voluntary sector organisations deliver projects on suicide prevention and train local people in suicide awareness.

We know communities play a crucial role in suicide prevention. Smaller organisations like Dads House provide a social response and support to vulnerable single fathers often servicing under-represented communities falling through the net of care.  Usually on small budgets, they engage in informal follow-up care, providing the cohesive glue between health and social care providers and local authority services.

So who are these unassuming organisations? Typically, small voluntary sector organisations like Ashford Place, faith groups, or organisations like The Traveller Movement which attract demographics who may not use traditional services. Breaking Bread is another example. They work with black men who have experienced catastrophic situations and turned them into a source of power. What these organisations have in common is that they often provide tailored support to people who don’t usually trust larger institutions.

Who are the driven people behind these organisations? Simultaneously strong and vulnerable, they have masses of creativity which they gathered to survive. They are organisations like SoBS who will be working on a film fighting stigma and taboos and supporting those bereaved by suicide. They can help give individuals a sense of belonging and a feeling of connectedness by being part of a community who have a common bond, or who simply look like one another. Lastly, communities can also implement specific suicide prevention strategies relevant to them, like the Wilde Foundation a platform created to promote, educate, empower and heal women and girls, survivors of all kinds of abuse through writing.

Community and individuals within them, like you, play a critical role in suicide prevention. Voluntary organisations like Sobriety Films UK provide social support to vulnerable individuals and help give individuals a feeling of belonging and connectedness by enabling them to be part of the community.

What’s even more important than our networks is the individual you are.

You can play a huge part by actively listening and signposting, so that as a society we lose fewer people to suicide.

Be part of our movement and sign up for training or just try and listen well to the next person who opens up to you.

– Lourdes Colclough, Head of Suicide Prevention (Rethink)

If you’re interested in training, you can do the Zero Suicide Alliance free suicide awareness training or for something more bespoke do contact them.

At our North West London service, we offer Community Grants (link takes you to a download) available to local organisations and groups for projects which contribute to reduced suicide rates, as well as training in suicide awareness. We’re also recruiting experts by experience.

If you want to be part of our innovative programme putting experts by experience at the centre of co-produced solutions, contact: [email protected]

Visit Mental Health UK’s comprehensive webpage providing an overview of suicide, highlighting the facts and common misconceptions around suicide, and signposting to support and educational resources.

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