University mental health partnership supports regional #TalkSuicide campaign

A pioneering mental health and wellbeing partnership led by Keele University has pledged its support to a campaign led by Staffordshire County Council to help reduce the number of suicides in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

The innovative Start to Success programme, led by Keele in collaboration with Staffordshire University and other partners, was launched last year to provide an integrated community approach to mental health and wellbeing for students in further and higher education.

As part of their mission, partners from the programme are adapting a regional campaign launched by Staffordshire County Council, which is intended to reduce the number of suicides in the region.

The #TalkSuicide campaign aims to raise awareness of the issue and how to help people experiencing crisis, and has received backing from local NHS organisations, local authorities, and regional partners like Stoke City FC.

In support of the campaign and to coincide with University Mental Health Day on March 4th, both universities are taking part in a month-long campaign of activities to highlight various issues surrounding suicide, offering support and guidance to anyone who needs it.

The online activities running throughout the campaign aim to give participants an understanding of how to help people who may be considering suicide, including tips for how to have difficult conversations around such a sensitive subject, and the best ways of reaching out to people in crisis.

The activities will be running throughout March with details available on the social media channels of Keele and Staffordshire Universities, with support from Staffordshire County Council.

Kara Holloway, Student Mental Health Project Coordinator at Keele University said: “Suicide can be a really difficult topic to talk about, yet we know that suicide is one of the biggest causes of death in young adults. It is therefore our responsibility to start a conversation about suicide within our community at Keele University and teach our students and staff ways that they can help to prevent it.

“We have already been working closely with Staffordshire County Council through the Start to Success project, so when they launched the #TalkSuicide campaign we knew this was something we wanted to be a part of. We have adapted the campaign for the Keele community and will be launching this on University Mental Health Day in a bid to help prevent suicide in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.”

Ian Munton, Director of Library and Student Services at Staffordshire University said: “We are proud to be supporting the #TalkSuicide campaign launch across Staffordshire University and Keele University as part of University Mental Health Day. Throughout the campaign, we’ll be sharing resources, support services and generating conversations to help support colleagues and students across the University.

“Covid-19 has put additional pressures on young people and adults, and we all have a responsibility to help reduce the stigma surrounding conversations on suicide. By speaking up, whether it’s sharing our collective experiences, lending an ear to listen, or simply signposting someone to support, the small things we do can make a big difference and ultimately save lives.”

Dr Johnny McMahon, Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Wellbeing at Staffordshire County Council added: “We know that most of us really don’t like to talk about suicide and that’s why people who are in need of help don’t usually ask for it. But simply talking and listening to someone who is thinking about suicide can be lifesaving and can help them on their road to recovery.

“Through our #TalkSuicide campaign we hope to make everyone more aware of the issue, to be able to spot the signs if someone is contemplating suicide and to have the confidence to talk to them about it. Knowing the right thing to say could save a life.”