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Local charities mark World Suicide Prevention Month

Johnny Bugeja

Local charities joined GibSams to raise awareness for World Suicide Prevention Month, with the Government set to release a report on the matter soon.

The awareness event at the Piazza saw the GHA’s mental health services team provide information for the public alongside charities Childline Gibraltar, Clubhouse Gibraltar and Walking Together.

The GHA was championing the telephone service 111, which was first launched to aid with the Covid effort, but now will also act as a phoneline for those seeking mental health support.

This year the message for World Suicide Prevention Month is ‘Our mental health matters’.

Chairperson of GibSams Marielou Guerrero said the past year and a half has seen the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns impact many people’s mental health.

“When we talk about mental health we are not talking about being mentally ill,” she said.

“It is about being distressed for some reason. Covid has brought a lot of uncertainly. It has caused problems with people being shut in and people feel very insecure and of course it has an effect on people’s mental health.”

“And, on the youth as well. Because the youth are used to being free and going out and they have been contained completely. Their education has been upset, university students have not been able to go and have their normal university life so all that has impacted people, of course it has.”

Her message to the people of Gibraltar is, “we are there”.

“You don’t have to be suicidal to ring us,” Ms Guerrero said.

“Don’t get to the point of where you are overwhelmed by what you are feeling.”

“If you are feeling destressed for any reason whatever it is, you have had an argument with your partner, you have financial problems, whatever. Give us a ring it helps to talk.”

“Our listeners are there, they are trained and they are not judgemental it is totally confidential. We do not know who you are, we cannot trace the call.”

“You can either call or chat with us and it does help. It is what we are there for.”

Kay Rajkumar from the GHA mental health services team stressed that the community should work to help one another, and now 111 is available to everyone in need.

“We need to work together to look after each other,” Ms Rajkumar said.

“To look after loved ones, family, colleagues, ask the question ‘are you ok? What is happening?’”

“We are already working very closely with Clubhouse and GibSams and we felt that it was important to join our colleagues on this journey.”

She said that it is not just important to look out for close friends and family, but for strangers too.

Three volunteers at the Childline Gibraltar stall were Janice Zarb, Nifa Sellors and Daniel Rowbottom, who highlighted the charity does receive calls that relate to suicide.

“We do get people that might have had suicidal thoughts or self-harm and our staff are trained to deal with those things and support them the best they can,” Nifa Sellors said.

Mr Rowbottom added Government 111 helpline number will aid the charity’s work.

“That will absorb most of the calls we are getting in so we can dedicate ourselves more to the Childline,” he said.

Ms Sellors called 111 “the link” they have been missing.

She described how it has been a struggle to refer children to other lines and the 111 number will provide this link.

Clubhouse Gibraltar volunteer Mary Anne Nacimiento explained it is important for the charity to raise awareness about mental health.

“It is important to raise awareness on such a global issue. We support GibSams, GibSams supports us, so it makes sense to be here today,” she said.

“I think all mental health issues are a concern, if mental ill health is not tackled suicide is sometimes the end result. We want prevent that. We want people to feel well.”

“Early intervention is key.”

Clubhouse provide mental health first aid courses which is about spotting the signs and symptoms before things get very serious. Anyone can sign up by contacting the charity via email or telephone.

Walking Together also joined the awareness campaign.

“We are a support group for people who are left behind after someone has completed suicide. It can be friends, family, whoever really,” said Sean Keating from Walking Together.

“It is a group that has been together for nearly three years and is based on the model called SOBS [Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide] which is the support group in the UK.”

“But, we decided to change the name because that is what we are doing, we are walking together with each other through the painful experiences.”

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