Wednesday 30 October 2013

Guest blog: An Artist's Story

Yvonne is a Brighton-based artist who was our keynote speaker at our World Suicide Prevention Day event on 10th September 2013.  This is her story.

“It seems that due to experiences in my life I have become some kind of expert, some kind of authority on communicating a particular story to people; a story about depression, about mental health and about suicide.
My father was very ill with depression and was in so much pain for so many years.

I was 13 years old when he attempted suicide. I watched him stagger around the kitchen vomiting in the sink, after taking an overdose.

I have another memory of when he refused treatment. I saw him being strapped into a chair and wheeled into an ambulance outside our house as he refused to go willingly.

I was 18 when he died by suicide. I came back to find a police car outside our house. My sister walked down the drive and told me “Dad’s dead”.
He had “done something silly”.

The world became an unreal place, I remember thinking; ‘this isn’t happening to me, this happens in films or on TV’.

Some people shunned us, but others stuck around. This is when I learnt to tell my story and to say ‘My Dad committed suicide’, or the preferred version, ‘My Dad took his own life’.

We weren’t permitted to have Dad’s funeral straight away, there were investigations, we were only permitted photocopies of the suicide notes he left behind.

To commit suicide was a criminal offense until the introduction of the Suicide Act in 1961. Even though it is no longer a crime the words ‘to commit’ have stuck. This is how I learnt about the stigma of living in a family surrounded by suicide.

The story got easier to tell as I became detached from telling it, but the reactions were no easier. The word suicide may be acceptable when used in a joke, but in the real world it can be too heavy for people to cope with. I would feel it weighing down my sentences as I explained how my father had died.
Like my father, I have depression.

Like my father, I have experienced suicidal thoughts.

Like my father, I have attempted suicide. Unlike my father, I did not succeed.
In March 2012 two days after my 37th birthday, I attempted suicide. I had taken a ‘serious overdose’. Life had thrown me upside down.

I had gone from managing my depression and trying to get off my medication, to being seriously depressed and suicidal, in a few short months.

I hadn’t been suicidal before. I didn’t know what it felt like or what signs to look out for.

Being suicidal meant my mind was not just full to capacity, it was overflowing. There was no longer any room to cope with anything. I was in so much mental distress and pain that the thought of death was a relief. I didn’t see any danger in death. I saw it as the only possible solution.

The overload on my brain meant that other, normal functions didn’t work. I had very little idea of what was going on and I was unaware of how much danger I was in.

I didn’t realise that I was saying goodbye to people and organising my effects. I was giving away things that I no longer needed. I was beginning to relax as I slowly ticked off the list of things that I needed to do. It was practical and logical. We are all going to die. I was just going to die that bit sooner.

I didn’t ‘complete’ suicide.
It took some 30 odd years from when my father died to have one new and very important word. Complete. Not commit.
I had a new way of explaining suicide. I picked it up from working with professionals who had learned Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) from Grassroots Suicide Prevention.

I remember the joy when Shauna from Rethink’s Survivors of Suicide group left a message, ‘cheerfully’ using the word suicide. One of the key things I noticed when working with ASIST trained people was their ability to use the word suicide freely and easily. I was greeted by people with whom I could have a conversation, without the shock and fear that I had experienced all my life. There was no stigma, there was no judgement. If I used the word, they used it back. This was such a relief.

There was so much care and attention given to each member of the Survivors of Suicide group. It was heart warming. Within each session there was a safe and clear structure. We were asked to check in at the beginning of each session on how we were feeling and how our week had been. We had a session of open discussion about our experiences with suicide. At the end of each session we were asked to checked out with how we were going to look after ourselves that evening, our ‘self care’. Talking openly about suicide can be extremely exhausting and we would each say something we were going to do that would make us feel good; something as simple as hot chocolate before bed, or watching something on TV.
Another specific detail that I came to rely on was being asked “Are you safe to leave?” and “Do you have a plan?”

In July 2013 I took the ASIST training with Grassroots. It was the most amazing two days of training that I have ever had. Normally I am someone who has to work hard at retaining information, someone who sits back and lets other stronger more knowledgeable people step forward.

In the world of suicide I have experience, I have opinions and I have a voice. And this voice will be heard! I couldn’t have stopped it if I had tried. Where others hesitated to use the work suicide I used it immediately and without burden. I could speak about it from more than one stand point; as one bereaved and as one who has attempted and survived. 

It is oddly empowering and very weird that my darkest life experiences are now useful, like I'm some kind of accidental expert who talks about things that are normally shut away.

Not only do I have the ability to help others who feel suicidal, I can also apply suicide intervention to myself. I can ask myself ‘am I feeling suicidal?’ and if the answer is ‘Yes’ I now have plenty of ways to make sure I keep safe. The first thing on my list is to tell someone.

The following words kept me going through my recovery. They are something I found on the Grassroots resources page. I read this and I cry with relief that somebody knew my reality. Somebody knew how to explain it for the first time.

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain (

That's all it's about. You are not a bad person, or crazy, or weak, or flawed, because you feel suicidal. It doesn't even mean that you really want to die - it only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. If I start piling weights on your shoulders, you will eventually collapse if I add enough weights... no matter how much you want to remain standing. Willpower has nothing to do with it. Of course you would cheer yourself up, if you could.”
To find out more about Grassroots Suicide Prevention, and to learn about ASIST and other suicide prevention training programmes, visit
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide and need to talk to someone, contact the Samaritans by phone 08457 90 90 90 or email  

Yvonne J. Foster: 
Rethink Survivors of Suicide Service: 

Thursday 15 August 2013

Psychosis and Violence: the media's influence

A guest blog from Lucy Daszkiewicz

So, I spend probably too much of my time talking about mental health.  After all since I'm doing an MSc in clinical psychology its good to be passionate about your area of interest.  The thing is, once people find out that I study psychology, I get the standard responses: 'Oh my God, are you analysing my thoughts?', or the classic 'Can you tell me if my friend/relative/child/colleague, etc. has a problem?'  Apparently being a student makes me a genius and ultimate oracle on these things. Among these gems of questions I get is one that causes  'So what do you think about the latest murder? Is he/she a psycho?'  This is always an interesting debate; however one thing that came out of this is that, alarmingly, even highly intelligent people come to the conclusion that people who have mental health problems are likely to be violent criminals.  I was quite shocked so I did some research into newspaper articles purely by searching for 'schizophrenia'.  Here are a few example quotes all taken this year and by no means exhaustive:

Nicola Edgington jailed for 37 years for killing grandmother in street knife attack - Judge brands schizophrenic Nicola Edgington a 'calculated' killer (London Evening Standard, 4th March, 2013)

Two sisters whose mother was beheaded by a man with paranoid schizophrenia in a supermarket on Tenerife have met his family in north Wales. (BBC, May 13 2013)

 A man who set fire to three men, two in a pub garden, has been detained under the Mental Health Act. (BBC, 15 April, 2013) 

Mum ... admitted her four-year-old daughter’s manslaughter at their Moss Side flat last year after being diagnosed with schizophrenia. (Manchester Evening News, 28th February, 2013)

All these headlines appeared in the top 5 articles relating to schizophrenia.  The sad thing in my opinion is that schizophrenia is a serious condition that affects around 1% of the population (Lieberman, Stroup & Perkins, 2012).  It is characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and struggle with building social relationships leading to them becoming socially isolated (Carr & McNulty, 2006).  In addition to this people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia are approximately 13 times more likely to die by suicide, with the greatest risk being after the recovery from the first psychotic episode (Lieberman et al, 2012).  

Gonza´lez-Torres et al. (2007) found that people who have schizophrenia face the stigma of being labelled dangerous in many aspects of their lives and may use social isolation as a way to defend themselves from this.  Hocking (2003) identified that as a result of stigma people with schizophrenia may struggle with employment and housing, and a key influence on peoples perception is the media's portrayal.  Unfortunately the reporting of schizophrenia is often misleading within the media and can be used in a metaphorical sense leading people to confuse the condition with other disorders such as multiple personality disorder (Clement & Foster, 2008). 

It is important to point out that different media  sources have different effects on peoples perception of mental health.  Clement and Foster (2008) found that tabloids and television have the effect of stigmatising  mental ill health more than broadsheet newspapers.  In addition the amount of television that people watch positively correlated with the level of negativity people felt towards those with mental health problems.  

In fact, research has pointed out that 95% of murders are committed by people without psychiatric problems, and in reality, people who have psychosis are more likely to hurt themselves than  other people (Ferriman, 2000).  In addition there is only a small increase in likelihood that people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia will commit a violent crime compared to the rest of the population (Fazel et al., 2009).  The variable that appears to make the most difference is whether the individual has a substance abuse problem (Fazel et al., 2009).  Duckworth et al., (2003) suggest that what we need is to educate through the means of media instead of demonising and misleading people, and that maybe by using terms such as schizophrenia correctly we can make it more socially acceptable so that people do not feel stigmatised and reluctant to seek help.

BBC News (2013). Leicester arsonist set fire to men in pub garden (published 15th April 2013). retrieved from 
BBC News (2013). Tenerife murder victim's daughters meet killer's family (published 13th May 2013). Retrieved from 
Clement, S., & Foster, N. (2008). Newspaper reporting on schizophrenia: a content analysis of five national newspapers at two time points. Schizophrenia research98(1), 178-183. Duckworth, K., Halpern, J. H., Schutt, R. K., & Gillespie, C. (2003). Use of schizophrenia as a metaphor in US newspapers. Psychiatric Services54(10), 1402-1404.
Fazel, S., Långström, N., Hjern, A., Grann, M., & Lichtenstein, P. (2009). Schizophrenia, substance abuse, and violent crime. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association301(19), 2016-2023. Ferriman, A. (2000). Press: The stigma of schizophrenia. BMJ: British Medical Journal320(7233), 522.
González-Torres, M. A., Oraa, R., Arístegui, M., Fernández-Rivas, A., & Guimon, J. (2007). Stigma and discrimination towards people with schizophrenia and their family members. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology42(1), 14-23. Hocking, B. (2003). Reducing mental illness stigma and discrimination-everybody's business. Medical Journal of Australia178(9), S47.
London Evening News (2013). Nicola Edgington jailed for 37 years for killing grandmother in street knife attack (published 4th March 2013). Retrieved from 
Manchester Evening News (2013). Report slams child services over girl death (28th February 2013). Retrieved from

Thursday 1 August 2013

World Suicide Prevention Day activities 

Grassroots Suicide Prevention warmly invites you to attend key events to mark World Suicide Prevention Day in Brighton & Hove this September.

Evening event

Our exciting evening event will take place on World Suicide Prevention Day itself, from 7 – 9.30 pm on Tuesday 10th September at BHASVIC Sixth Form College, 205 Dyke Road, Hove, BN3 6EG.

***We are planning to stream the event live through our website 7 – 9.30 pm on 10th September, so that people who can’t get to the event in person can still watch and feel part of it.  Visit to watch!***

The evening’s activities will include:

·         a performance from Right Here, a local project led by young people
·         a personal story from local artist Yvonne J Foster of how a suicide prevention intervention touched her life
·         a minute’s silence to remember those we have loved and lost to suicide
·         a screening of our new film ‘Something in the Silence’
·         a speech from James Moncrieff – Deputy Principle of BHASVIC Sixth Form College
·         Brighton & Hove’s Deputy Mayor
·         An update from Grassroots on the first year of our Suicide Safer Brighton & Hove Project                       

The theme for World Suicide Prevention this year is ‘Stigma: a major barrier to suicide prevention’ (  Stigma can be fatal as it can prevent people in need from reaching out and asking for help.  We can collectively reduce stigma through taking part in, and talking about, events such as this.

Please RSVP by 30th August to at the latest if you would like to attend this event.  We hope to see you there for what will be an inspiring and fun evening.

Weekend and mid-week events

On Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th September, 10 am – 5 pm we are holding an event with information stands on Brighton seafront.  Please come and join us, and tie a ribbon of hope or remembrance to the famous Kissing Sculpture.  We are also planning a Zumbathon to raise money and celebrate life!

Our stand will be taking pledge signatures, selling books, and giving out suicide prevention resources to the public.  We have room for 2 or 3 local organisations to join us by also having a stand.   Please get in contact if you would like to join us:  

Monday 9th – Friday 13th September we will be hosting a free, outdoor photographic exhibition in Jubilee Square, outside Brighton Library.  The photographs will be beautiful portraits with a clear stigma reduction message

We hope you will join us at one or more of these events and look forward to connecting with you.

Grassroots Suicide Prevention gratefully acknowledges funding from Public Health which has enabled us to organise these events.

Chris Brown, Director

Will you take our 'Tell Me' pledge? Sign up to have open, honest and direct conversations about suicide  

Wednesday 12 June 2013

An experience of ASIST 

A guest blog from a mental health team leader

As a Mental Health Liaison worker in a busy A & E department, it is the role
of our team to assess and support people who are in crisis, often with
suicidal thoughts. Many people we see have already attempted suicide and
many others are contemplating it.  I have done this work for twelve years, so
I was really interested to go on the two day ASIST (Applied Suicide
Intervention Skills Training), which is an interactive and practical course-
it explores our attitudes to suicide and helps to identify risk and
interventions for people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

I didn't have any preconceptions about the course, I was just pleased to
find some training which was so relevant to the area that I work in.  I was
really impressed.  Right from the start I found the approach interesting and
thought provoking; challenging too, but in a very positive way.  The training
content was relevant and practical, really well delivered and sensitively
thought offers some excellent approaches and skills for those
with no experience at all, to the very experienced in this field.

A common theme that I hear from most people considering suicide is: "not
being able to see a way out" of their difficulties.  Although everybody's
individual story differs, a common pattern that I see is people experiencing
a build up of stresses and not feeling able to confide in others, causing an
increase in feelings of isolation and desperation.  A big challenge that
people in distress, or people with mental health problems face is the stigma
attached and the fear of how people might react to them if they disclose
what they are experiencing.  It's a big step to admitting to someone that
they are thinking about suicide and it can also feel like a big
responsibility to know how best to respond sometimes.

This course equips us all to acknowledge those difficult feelings, to
gradually explore alternatives to suicide at a helpful pace, moving forward
to looking at safety planning and support options.  If more people in our
community are equipped to respond, then the aim is to intervene and help at
an earlier stage, before people act on those suicidal thoughts - and this is
where the ASIST skills are so valuable in overall suicide prevention.  I was
reassured to see that the approaches that ASIST use are very similar to what
we have learned to do in our team naturally through years of experience and
through observing what seems to be effective.  For me the ASIST trainers put
into words what works  in practice, in a very clear and digestible format,
which was very reassuring.  What I hadn't previously considered was that
anyone can work towards this and be skilled- not just professionals.
Naturally the  more people equipped with consistent skills and the more
overall healthy attitudes are developed, the better for all us. Attitudes
towards suicide are slowly shifting, but it remains a taboo subject for

I think that the training encourages a more open dialogue about suicide and
encourages much healthier attitudes and approaches.  It is well thought out
and really practical. I have recommended it to colleagues and would
encourage anyone to attend.

Fiona Ellis
Team Leader
Mental Health Liaison Team
A & E

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Reasons for staying alive when you are considering suicide.

In 1983 Marsha Linehan (an American psychologist and the developer of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) published her research about beliefs people had that they gave as reasons for not killing themselves.  Dr Linehan interviewed students, senior citizens, factory workers, middle-aged adults and U.S. Senate office staff.

Participants were asked to list their reasons for staying alive at the point in their lives when they had most seriously considered killing themselves and reasons they would not now kill themselves.  A list of over 343 reasons was analysed and reduced.  

The following list captures the 47 top responses.

1. I care enough about myself to live
2. I believe I can find other solutions to my problems
3. I still have many things left to do
4. I have hope that things will improve and the future will be happier
5. I have the courage to face life
6. I want to experience all that life has to offer and there are many experiences I haven’t had yet which I want to have
7. I believe everything has a way of working out for the best
8. I believe I can find a purpose in life, a reason to live
9. I have a love of life
10. No matter how badly I feel I know that it will not last
11. Life is too beautiful and precious to end it
12. I am happy and content with my life
13. I am curious about what will happen in the future
14. I see no reason to hurry death along
15. I believe I can learn to adjust or cope with my problems
16. I believe killing myself would not really accomplish or solve anything
17. I have a desire to live
18. I am too stable to kill myself
19. I have future plans I am looking forward to carrying out
20. I do not believe that things get miserable or hopeless enough that I would rather be dead
21. I do not want to die
22. Life is all we have and is better than nothing
23. I believe I have control over my life and destiny
24. It would hurt my family too much and I would not want them to suffer
25. I would not want my family to feel guilty afterwards
26. I would not want my family to think I was selfish or a coward
27. My family depends on me and needs me
28. I love and enjoy my family too much and could not leave them
29. My family might believe I did not love them
30. I have a responsibility and commitment to my family
31. The effect on my children could be harmful
32. It would not be fair to leave the children for others to take care of
33. I want to watch my children as they grow
34. I am afraid of the actual “act” of killing myself (the pain, blood, violence)
35. I am a coward and do not have the guts to do it
36. I am so inept that my method would not work
37. I am afraid that my method of killing myself would fail
38. I am afraid of the unknown
39. I am afraid of death
40. I could not decide where, when and how to do it
41. Other people would think I am weak and selfish
42. I would not want people to think I did not have control over my life
43. I am concerned about what others would think of me
44. My religious beliefs forbid it
45. I believe only God has the right to end a life
46. I consider it morally wrong
47. I am afraid of going to hell

What would be on your list..?

You might like to print off this list and circle 3 that matter to you, or add your own.

Monday 25 March 2013

Funded Mental Health and Suicide Intervention Training

Funded Mental Health and Suicide Intervention Training

Are you eligible for some funded training?

Grassroots is very happy to be able to offer a number of funded suicide alertness, suicide intervention and mental health training places, provided by NHS Brighton & Hove.
In previous years we have been able to offer funded places completely free of charge, but this year we are asking participants to contribute a small amount (£6 for half-day, £16 for 2-day) towards the cost of the training. This will go towards essential admin, as well as refreshments and venue hire, and will allow us to provide more training in a more sustainable way.

To be eligible for a place funded by NHS Brighton & Hove you need to be working in the Brighton & Hove area with/for one of the following target groups:

People who have experienced domestic abuse; Survivors of sexual abuse; Prison leavers; Ex-service personnel; People who are unemployed or at risk of unemployment; People who are homeless and those at risk of homelessness; Older people; Emergency services; LGBT; Women during or after pregnancy; People bereaved by suicide; BME communities; People who self harm; People with long term physical conditions; People experiencing financial difficulties; Mental Health services; Substance misuse services; Male specific projects; People experiencing relationship breakdown; High risk occupational groups (doctors, dentists, vets, farmers etc.); Refugees and asylum seekers; Teachers and welfare/pastoral services at schools, colleges and universities.

Funded training is limited to 3 places per course per organisation, and if in doubt participants should check with their manager/training coordinator before booking to ensure that places are available for their organisation.

For more information about funded places please contact us directly at or on 01273 675764.

For an overview of all available courses, and to book a place please click here.

Course dates are as follows:

For information about whole courses and bespoke training not covered by these funded places please contact us, or find more information on our website 

Copyright © 2013 Grassroots Suicide Prevention, All rights reserved.
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Our mailing address is:
Grassroots Suicide Prevention
Valley Social Centre
Whitehawk Way
Brighton, England BN2 5HE
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Wednesday 20 February 2013

Suicide and Debt

 No debt problems are unsolvable.

Getting into debt can lead to untold misery, stress and depression. It can cause feelings of isolation, loss of hope and uncertainty.  It is important to know that in all my years as a debt adviser I have never seen a case that cannot be resolved.  Whilst it may seem like a dark place at the moment, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

You will feel more empowered, less stressed and less worried if you seek advice from one of the many free advice agencies in the city.  Remember:

You have options. 

·    Stop borrowing. This will not help.

·    It is only money. If you don’t have anything, they can’t take anything!

·    There is no shame in getting into debt.

·    No one is going to judge you. We all experience money worries at some point in life.

·    The majority of debts are dealt with in the County Court which means you will not go to prison if you don’t pay.

·    Bailiffs instructed by the County Courts cannot force entry in to your home.

·    Seek free advice before things escalate.  

There are free, impartial and confidential organisations that can help you. If you feel you cannot talk to a stranger then speak to a friend or family member.

Support in Brighton & Hove: 

  • Money Advice & Community Support.  Call the advice line on 01273 664040
  • Citizens Advice Bureau 08451203710
  • St Luke’s Advice Service 01273 549203
  • Brighton Housing Trust 01273 234737
  • National Debt Line 08088084000

 This guest blog has been written by an experienced local debt/money Adviser.