Frontline workers trained to spot signs of suicide

Initiative run by Glasgow’s health & social care partnership emphasises ‘anyone can help prevent suicide’

Friday 9th August 2019

Supermarket, benefits and bank staff are being trained to recognise the signs that someone could be at risk of suicide.

Glasgow City Health & Social Care Partnership (GCHSCP) has trained staff and charity volunteers to teach others how to talk about the subject with anyone they are worried about.

Around 40 suicideTALK session leaders have trained staff at Glasgow City Council, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, as well as supermarkets, banks, benefits advisors, faith groups and bereavement charities.

Glasgow City Council roads supervisor George Duff saved a stranger’s life, weeks after receiving suicide prevention training.

He spent 25 minutes calmly talking to man who was teetering on a bridge parapet.

He said: "Everyone was just walking past the guy, like they didn't want to get involved. No-one stopped. I think they thought, because we were wearing hi-vis vests they could leave us to sort it out.

"You're trained not to try to grab anyone, as they might fall. I made general conversation with him to try to take his mind off what he might do. I tried to use humour to try to lighten the situation and he gradually started to calm down a bit.”

The man, who was in his early 30s, eventually agreed to go to a café for a cup of tea – but panicked when the police arrived and again threatened to jump.

George asked for some time and space to continue speaking to the man, and after several more minutes he was convinced to climb to safety.

He said: "The training was very good. I think it gave me the confidence to try to help the guy. You never want to see anyone hurt themselves."

The suicideTALK initiative highlights key behaviours to look out for – such as a person suddenly becoming withdrawn – particularly if they have financial difficulties or have been through a major life event such as bereavement.

The advice includes not being afraid to ask if someone has thought about suicide, but avoiding using terms such as ‘are you thinking of doing something silly?’.

Larry Callary, session leader for suicideTALK, said: "Life can be very stressful, yet there is still stigma around admitting to thoughts of suicide.

“Talking about your problems is imperative - it could save your own or someone else's life.

“Suicide prevention is not the job of one person or service. Anyone can prevent suicide.”

*For help with issues of suicide, the Samaritans can be contacted free on 116 123 or Breathing Space can be contacted free on 0800 83 85 87