If you can read between the lines, you can save lives

News release from Choose Life in South Ayrshire

Choose Life campaign continues to support Suicide Prevention Week in South Ayrshire

If you can read between the lines, you can save lives. That’s the message Choose Life is sending out to people in South Ayrshire to mark Suicide Prevention Week (4–10 September 2017).

Last year 14 people in South Ayrshire took their own lives. The emotional impact on families, friends and communities bereaved by suicide is devastating and can have long lasting negative effects on those left behind. While it is difficult to put an exact value on the economic and social cost of a suicide; a figure of £1.5 million per individual has been estimated*. The ripple effect on families, friends and communities adds another dimension which would increase this figure dramatically.

The continuing Choose Life ‘Read between the lines’ campaign, asks everyone to be alert to the warning signs of suicide in people close to them. The message is:

 ….if you’re worried about someone, such as a friend, family member or workmate, asking them directly about their feelings can help to save their life.

The campaign acknowledges that signs of suicide can be difficult to spot, but encourages people to take all signs of distress seriously, even if it seems a person is living a normal life. It also assures people that asking a person about what’s troubling them can make a positive difference.

People who have tried to take their life can teach us about how the words and actions of others are important. They often talk movingly about reaching the point where they could see no alternative but to take their own life. Despite this, they also had a strong desire to live but wanted someone to intervene and stop them from ending their life. By taking a minute to show you care and asking directly about suicide, you could change their life.

Fiona Longmuir, Choose Life Co-ordinator in South Ayrshire, said: “If someone you are close to shows signs of not being themselves, you will normally notice.  When changes in their behaviour begin to worry you – even if the signs come and go – the most important aspect is to ask them about it.

“Talking openly about their feelings can help a person get clarity about what is troubling them. Starting this conversation helps them gain a perspective on their distress. You don’t need to have a solution to their problems – being there for them and listening, without judgement, shows that you care and their distress, and ultimately their happiness, is important to you.”

Fiona added: “Ask if they are thinking about suicide. It won’t put the thought into their head if it wasn’t there before, but it can be a big relief for them to be able to open up fully and acknowledge they need help and support. By taking a minute to show you care you could change their life.”

The campaign targets men and women who are likely to be in greatest contact with people most at risk of suicide – the highest rate of suicide remains in the 35 - 54 age groups. Statistics show that around three quarters of suicides have been men in every year since 1990.

Raising awareness of suicide prevention and giving the public information is a vital part of the Choose Life work. A host of activities are taking place in South Ayrshire during Suicide Prevention Week, including promotion of Suicide Prevention Week and Choose Life at Fresher’s Fayre within the Ayr campuses of Ayrshire College and University of the West Coast of Scotland and distribution of beer mats with helpline contact details to targeted licensed venues. The ‘Read between the lines’ promotional material will also be distributed to other local student venues and Choose Life has widely available information cards and leaflets that provide information on how to help, for example, advice on starting conversations about suicide and listening effectively.

Choose Life in South Ayrshire will strengthen its efforts to reduce suicide rates locally by working in partnership with individuals and local communities as well as continuing to provide training to statutory and third sector agencies including SafeTalk, ASIST and STORM; and providing awareness-raising sessions to the local Fire and Rescue Service.

Working with organisations like Touched by Suicide support group, who provide support and self-help to those affected by suicide, Choose Life hopes to reduce stigma and isolation and allow families to support each other and better cope with their loss.


For more information contact Fiona.longmuir@aapct.scot.nhs.uk, telephone 01292 559710.

Notes to editors: 

  • *www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/zero-suicides.
  • The Touched by Suicide support group is supported by NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s mental health services and South Ayrshire Council. www.touchedbysuicidescotland.org.
  • The Scottish Government continues to keep suicide prevention as a national and local priority and will continue to provide national leadership to reduce suicide and monitor the implementation of the strategy. The current Suicide Prevention Strategy covers the period 2013- 2016 and builds on the work done to address death by suicide in Scotland and incorporates learning from experience, research and evaluation. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/12/7616.
  • Although we continue to see the lowest numbers of deaths by suicide in Scotland since 1977, the suicide rate for males is more than 2.5 times that of females (2015).
  • As a result of national and local partnership working there are now over 50,000 individuals trained in suicide prevention skills and over 250 trainers to help with this training. Crucially, this means that one in every two health professionals working directly with the public in mental health services, primary care and Accident and Emergency now have the knowledge and skills to identify people potentially in distress and provide a “listening” ear at appropriate times. First responders such as Police Scotland, Fire and Rescue and Ambulance service personnel are also undergoing this training.
  • Further statistical information on suicide can be accessed from the ScotPHO website http://www.scotpho.org.uk/home/Healthwellbeinganddisease/suicide/suicides_keypoints.asp.
  • Choose Life in South Ayrshire has a local action plan and a dedicated Choose Life Co-ordinator/contact to lead its delivery. To see the local action plan go to www.chooselife.net.
  • For information on what do if you are worried someone is feeling suicidal, and to download ‘The Art of Conversation’, a free guide on spotting the signs, starting a conversation and being a good listener, visit www.chooselife.net/ask.