On Sunday, 10th September, in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, Calderdale Council is encouraging local residents to challenge the stigma surrounding suicide and learn how they can contribute to its prevention by becoming a Suicide Prevention Champion.

This initiative is spearheaded by the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, calling on all individuals above the age of 18 to enlist and commit to reducing West Yorkshire’s higher-than-average suicide rate.

Cllr Tim Swift, Calderdale Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Public Health, has become Calderdale’s first Suicide Prevention Champion. He said; “Every life lost to suicide is one too many. Together, we can prevent suicide and the devastating impact it has on individuals, families and communities.

“Calderdale Council is proud to have supported the development of the regional Suicide Prevention Champions campaign, and I am equally proud to have signed up to become a Champion.

“My pledge is to take an active role in raising awareness to help create a place where fewer people die by suicide, and challenging stigma to make it easier for people to seek help. This will build on the work of the Calderdale Suicide Prevention Group and West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership to bring down the region’s higher-than-average suicide rate.

“However big or small your pledge may be, you can share some kindness and make a difference. Please consider joining the growing team of Suicide Prevention Champions to help spread the word and encourage suicide prevention action at home and in your community or workplace.”

Recent data from the Government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities reveals that both West Yorkshire and Calderdale persist in having a higher suicide rate compared to the national average for England. The three-year rolling rate for registered suicide deaths is 13.2 per 100,000 in West Yorkshire and 16.9 per 100,000 in Calderdale, as opposed to the national rate of 10.4 per 100,000.

Reducing suicide stands as one of the four key priorities outlined in Calderdale’s Wellbeing Strategy, and the Suicide Prevention Strategy for Calderdale delineates the steps being taken to achieve this. This strategy also aligns with broader efforts across West Yorkshire to mitigate the rate and impact of suicide on a local and regional scale.

Becoming a Suicide Prevention Champion is a straightforward and cost-free process. Participants will acquire the skills to identify signs that someone may be struggling, gain confidence in discussing suicide, and learn how to direct someone towards the appropriate support.

Manuel Benages from Halifax has joined Cllr Tim Swift in becoming a Calderdale and West Yorkshire Suicide Prevention Champion. Manuel said; “I’ve been to some dark places in my life and lost so many people I loved to suicide. Eventually, it all got too much and I tried to end my own life. Thankfully I survived, and it was a real turning point. I realised I had to change, but asking for help is really hard when you’re at your lowest. Not everyone wants to sit and talk about their problems.

“That’s why, after dealing with my own demons, I started Get Fit 4 Mental Wellness. We deal with the person, not the problem, and offer a range of support from gentle yoga, to boxing, to life-changing group programmes and 1-1 counselling – all free to people who need it.

“There is still too much stigma around talking about mental health and admitting you need help. This is why I’m so proud to become a West Yorkshire Suicide Prevention Champion and urge others to do the same. We can all do our little bit to help tackle that stigma and look out for each other before reaching a point of crisis like I did.”

To become a Suicide Prevention Champion, please register at https://suicidepreventionwestyorkshire.co.uk/becomeachampion.