Thursday 22 October 2015

'Stay Safe' Suicide Prevention Toolkit for People with Learning Disabilities

Grassroots has developed a DVD suicide prevention toolkit for people with learning difficulties in partnership with Jon Bryant (our fantastic producer) and SpeakOut, a Brighton-based advocacy service for adults with learning difficulties.  When we looked into available resources for people with learning disabilities and thoughts of suicide we found nothing like this, so we're thrilled to have brought it to fruition.

The DVD has been extensively tested and contains very practical guidance about thoughts of suicide and how to ask for help from trusted sources.  We initially developed the resource for Brighton & Hove with some funding from the local Learning Disability Development Fund, and are ready now to open it out across the UK.

Producer Jon writes about his experience of developing the toolkit:

"Some years ago I was asked to use my 30+ years experience as a mainstream video director to transform a 40 page legal tenancy agreement into a “see and hear” version for supported living tenants.  I worked with the tenants every step of the way to benchmark my “visual language”.

Being a tad dyslexic means I have a learning disability too so perhaps it was destiny that the inspiring Chris Brown, a director at Grassroots Suicide Prevention saw my housing association work on Twitter and got in touch.  Over a period of about a year Grassroots and I slowly gathered research as there is nothing out there except some very academic work that didn’t give me any personal insight.  Some of our research was done quite formally via sessions run by Brighton and Hove based advocacy Speak Out and their clients with learning disabilities.

I also spent that time talking to parents from around the world who so kindly shared the intimate and tragic details of their experiences with a stranger. It was emotionally the hardest research project I have ever taken on, but it gave me a much better feel for the breadth of the learning disability spectrum and how best to communicate this most difficult of topics.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that I have experienced what it is to have suicidal feelings as a troubled young man and since then the three suicides that have touched my life all involved people with learning disabilities.

As ideas and concepts were developed we were so lucky to have a team of people with learning disabilities who were prepared to get involved and give us their vital feedback, which now forms part of our evidence base.  It’s a tragic fact that they all knew people who had attempted and sometimes succeeded in hurting themselves or ending their lives, so special thanks to them for their courage and commitment.

I spent 18 months creating testing and refining the suicide prevention tool kit, getting the language and tone of voice right was a complex challenge. When we finally had a finished product we then ran a pilot for 6 months.  The degree of approval and positive feedback has exceeded anything we ever dared expect; all the respected names in this area have endorsed it and learning disability nurses let us run a tweetchat about it.  We presented it to an audience of learning disability clinicians at Kings College in October."

Having got sign off from Brighton and Hove community learning disability team and with 500 copies now out there in the community our vision is simple; it should be a tool available to the NHS, charities and carers nationally.  We are still working out the details of how this will happen, so to express an interest please contact with the subject line: "Stay Safe toolkit interest" and we will add you to the list to be updated when we have news.  Please bear with us as it may take a while to finalise the details of how this can be made available in your local area.

Huge thanks to Jon Bryant for his sterling work, SpeakOut for providing so much expertise and Brighton & Hove City Council for the initial funding that helped us get this ground-breaking piece of work off the ground.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

5 Ways to Show Support When a Friend’s Loved One Attempts Suicide

A friend just told you that their loved one tried to attempt suicide.  How does one react to this information?

Be there.

Be there for the person who just told you this information by being fully present with them. See, for every person who is struggling with mental illness, they have loved ones who care for and about them.  Mental illness and suicide are stigmatized. Partly because people believe it is a choice or because they think it is selfish.  

Just as the person who has a mental illness struggles with guilt, shame and fear of being judged, so do the loved ones.  They too may be fearful to tell or speak openly about their loved ones mental health.  In addition to being fearful of being judged, stigma, shame, and guilt, they may feel like it isn’t their story to tell.  So if someone is sharing this information with you, please know that they value your support and friendship.  They need you to be there.  They do not need you to fix it or say the right thing.  

Just be there

Listen to them

Talk to them

Just as every person with mental illness has their story and is needing understanding and empathy from their loved ones; loved ones are asking for the same from you.  Please be empathetic.  Know that their story is different than their mothers, brothers or other family members and friends.  It impacts them differently, as their relationship is different with their loved one.

Here are some practical things to know about attempted suicide/suicide and the mental health system (this is not an exhausted list and is meant to help you understand some of the situation so that you can be supportive).  If you would like more information or warning signs please click here.

  • Not everyone is hospitalised.  Hospitalisation is not indicative of the severity of someone’s mental illness.
  • A suicide attempt does not necessarily mean someone was depressed.  For example, someone may suffer from a psychotic break up and make an attempt.  An overdose does not always mean someone was attempting to hurt themselves.  No matter what the situation, provide empathy.  Each situation is different and each deserves the same respect and understanding.
  • Navigating the mental health system can be very difficult and tiresome.

Here are some tips that can help you support your friend:

1. Ask questions.

If the person is comfortable, ask questions. Do so because you want to understand and provide empathy, not out of curiosity. This actually may be a nice change for the loved one. Because the topic of mental illness can make people feel uncomfortable, some might respond with silence, change the subject or offer a hurried statement. If you don’t understand something, ask. It’s better to fully understand than to make assumptions.

2. Don’t assume your friend can tell you what he or she needs.

Don’t assume your friend knows what they need. In times of stress, it’s common not to know. If they’re sharing with you, most likely they just need you to listen.

3. Offer practical help.

Offer/do practical things for your friend. Offer to babysit, bring groceries or bring dinner. Any of those things can be helpful. If someone is hospitalized, visiting hours are often in the evening, so things such as meals and childcare can be important.

4. Encourage self-care.

Remind your friend to engage in self-care. Offer to go to the movies, meet for coffee or go on a walk with them. Friends and family of those with mental illness need to manage their own stress as well.

5. Check in.

Check in with your friend periodically about their loved one. One reason that mental illness is so isolating is because people don’t talk about it. While it can be uncomfortable for both the person struggling and the family, it’s uncomfortable for them not to talk about it, too. They’ll appreciate knowing that you care enough to check in.

If you or someone you love is in mental health crisis (UK), please contact the
Samaritans on 116 123.

Opening times: 24 hours, 7 days a week

or see our Resources page on our website:

Download the free #StayAlive Suicide Prevention App: find out more here.

This blog post was adapted from The Mighty, originally appeared on the JLF Counseling Services blog, written by Jessica Fowler, LCSW.

Please note that this information is provided for informational and educational purposes only.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Win a free ASIST place!

Grassroots launched an initiative on September 10th 2012 to work towards Brighton & Hove becoming a ‘Suicide Safer Community’ 

Suicide Safer Community is an international designation awarded by LivingWorks Education in Canada.

Now we are co-ordinating an application for this designation on behalf of Brighton & Hove. The application will be assessed by an international review committee.

We need your help to make this application the best it can be and to capture all the excellent suicide prevention work in the city.  

Please can you complete the survey below if:

A: Your organisation is not a member of Brighton & Hove’s Suicide Prevention Strategy Group


B: Your organisation is involved in suicide prevention work of any kind

The deadline for completing the survey is Friday October 30th.  

We will give a free place on our two-day ASIST: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training to a randomly selected survey completer!

Many thanks from the Grassroots team.