'Nobody's alone' - strong message as suicide deaths in Cumbria 50% above national average

Tim Backshall went to meet one woman who lost her brother to suicide to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.

Deaths from suicide in Cumbria are 50 per cent above the national average, according to the latest figures.

The figures for the period covering 2020 to 2022 were up from 18 per cent above the national average in the previous three-year period.

One Cumbrian woman, Lisa Birdsall, believes all these deaths are preventable and is campaigning to raise awareness of the issue as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

She's had her own mental health problems and lost her older brother Stephen to suicide in 2015.

Lisa Birdsall's brother Stephen took his own life.

"It's caused such an amount of devastation," said Lisa Birdsall.

"I can't even really put it into words, it's hard to articulate what it's like to lose somebody in that manner.

Figures on suicide in Cumbria suggest the problem is getting worse, with the county well above the national average for deaths. "Between 2018 and 2020 we were 18 per cent above the national average for suicide-related deaths in Cumbria and right now as it stands, between 2020 and 2022, we reached 50 per cent above the national average.

"Logistically we're quite spread out in Cumbria as well. We've got a lot of rural areas and also we don't have access to the care." Lisa Birdsall has become a campaigner for suicide awareness and is also a trustee at the Cumbrian charity Every Life Matters, which has commissioned four giant murals to raise awareness of mental health issues.

A mural has been created in Harraby to raise awareness of mental health. Credit: ITV Border.

She's one of the Cumberland Building Society's 17 mental health and wellbeing champions who are committed to helping colleagues who may need someone to talk to.

Another of the champions is Shelby Melville, who said: "I myself reached out to a mental health and wellbeing champion about a year ago when I was struggling and just having someone there to listen to and kind of come back and check in and then direct you to the resources that we have available.

"It just makes a difficult time a little bit easier."

Tom Little, another mental health and wellbeing champion at the company, said : "I think in some organisations it might be difficult to come in and talk about your mental health in the same way that you talk about your physical health.

"The culture here is that you can talk about your mental health. It might be something very small, it might be neurodiversity, might be something related to menopause.

"It might be something more serious where you need more support. It's completely okay to come in and talk about it." Lisa Birdsall added: "Nobody's ever alone. Talk and if you're worried about somebody, ask just really open and direct questions. "We feel that 100% (of suicides) are preventable with the right care and the right tools in place."

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