Back in 2015, 7 health professionals applied to become suicide prevention trainers through a local authority scheme. They came from various organisations including the NHS, Exeter CVS and charities such as Pete’s Dragons. The training course itself was provided by LivingWorks trained facilitators. LivingWorks are Canadian based social-enterprise that run courses in suicide-prevention. Their courses are tried and tested and have gained an international reputation for being highly effective, as these studies have confirmed.

As part of this 5-day intensive training, the participants agreed to then facilitate 6 workshops for free which meant that nearly 200 people were trained in suicide prevention via this initial programme.

A New Approach

This process of training 7 people to train nearly 200 meant we had the beginnings of a suicide prevention network across Devon. It was around this time that I found out that ? of people who take their own lives do not contact any professional and that made me realise that this was a community issue – and one that demanded a more grassroots response. But there was no funding available for suicide prevention training – at a local, community level – with neither the Government or the NHS able to respond with funding to help prevent suicide in this way.

So this meant we needed a new approach and this led me to set up a not-for-profit organisation with the help of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE). Our initiative now takes this form – essentially, raising funds to provide suicide prevention training across Devon and Torbay. And for anyone to be able to apply to take the training – whether they be a local volunteer, teacher, individual or employee. We wanted to encourage a community-level response to a community-level problem and provide each local area of Devon with a trained suicide prevention ‘first aider’ – in much the same way as you might have someone acting as a physical first aider, should the need arise.

The SSE gave us a grant – to pay for some of our promotional and communications strategy and delivery. So far this has helped us to reach tens of thousands of people, and helped us raise close to £1,000 – still a long way from our goal, but we are confident our message is getting through to people and that our initiative is one that will work, powerfully, to bring the rate of suicide down. Currently, around 3 people every week take their own lives in Devon. Surely this can be reduced and we can show that we can respond constructively?

Given the success of the LivingWorks courses and the research into their effectiveness, the solution seems clear i.e. to train people within their communities and workplaces in suicide prevention skills.

The Courses We Are Offering

Initially, we’d like to train people in two types of courses – for free:

  • safeTALK – a short course aimed at anyone over 15 years of age. We’ll train 343 people in safeTALK.
  • ASIST – a more in-depth course aimed at those with a deeper interest in suicide prevention. We’ll train 282 people in ASIST.

Eventually, we want to extend our training courses to include ASK – aimed specifically at those working with young people.

Making Devon an Officially “Suicide Safer Community”

Creating a network of people trained in suicide prevention is the beginning of our plan to make Devon an official “Suicide-Safer Community”. This internationally awarded designation is awarded by LivingWorks and relies on their ten pillars of core suicide-prevention. It has become the global standard for suicide prevention and we believe Devon can lead the way with this on a national level.

Galvanising Hearts and Minds

In the coming months, we hope to galvanise hearts and minds and add to the support we have received from all sorts of people from Exeter City FC and Devon and Somerset Fire Service to the comedian and poet Matt Harvey and the Young Farmers. So, please do what you can, share this campaign and help make Devon a suicide-safer community.

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