'You don’t know what is going on behind someone’s smile, behind their eyes'

Organisations across the Highlands join forces to support people living with suicidal feelings.

One person a week on average took their own life in the Highlands last year, according to new figures.

It’s an issue that understandably devastates families and friends.

Organisations across the area are now coming together to offer better support to those affected, with the launch of a new strategy to try to tackle the issue in the Highlands.

Eight aims have been set out by groups including Police Scotland, the NHS, and mental health charities, including identifying those at risk, ensuring people can access support and making more workplaces and communities aware of the issue.

James Mullery was 28 when he took his own life in 2017.  Now his family help others through the James Support Group, which was set up to try to prevent suicide and help those affected by it.  They offer a crisis helpline and regular meetings for anyone who needs it.

Patrick Mullery, James’ dad, told STV News: “James was with me for lunch on the day he took his own life.

“You don’t know what is going on behind someone’s smile, behind their eyes. If someone is struggling, I would say there is always tomorrow ahead, get to tomorrow. Speak about how you feel. We are here to support everyone.”

Jenny Valentine, a temporary superintendent with Police Scotland who also chairs the Highland Suicide Prevention Steering Group, said: “We need to look at the data behind the statistics, where people are vulnerable – is it in particular geographical areas, in particular jobs?”

“Every figure is a person, and a devastated family, devastated friends, devastated work colleagues and communities.”

Organisations say more people are aware now that talking about how they feel can really help but there is always more to do.

Emily Stokes from suicide awareness charity Mikeysline said: “Mental health is someone people are speaking about nowadays but we can all do more. It is everyone’s business to talk about mental health.”

The strategy’s tag line is ‘Creating Hope in Highland’ – and the groups today say hope is there – it’s just helping people to see it.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

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