Wednesday, 22 November 2017


If you can read between the lines, you can save lives

Published on 31 Aug 2017

Choose Life Campaign supports Suicide Prevention Week in 2017 across the Western Isles

Choose Life logo


If you can read between the lines, you can save lives. That’s the message Choose Life continues to send out to people across the Western Isles to mark this year’s Suicide Prevention Week (4 –10 September 2017).

The emotional impact on families, friends and communities bereaved by suicide is devastating and can have long lasting negative effects on those left behind. Whilst it is difficult to put an exact value on the economic and social cost of a suicide; a figure of £1.5 million per individual has been estimated (  The ripple effect on families, friends and communities adds another dimension which would increase this figure dramatically. 

The continuing Choose Life ‘Read between the lines’ campaign, asks everyone to be alert to the warning signs of suicide in people close to them. The message is:  

 ….if you’re worried about someone, such as a friend, family member or workmate, asking them directly about their feelings can help to save their life. 

The campaign acknowledges that signs of suicide can be difficult to spot, but encourages people to take all signs of distress seriously, even if it seems a person is living a normal life. It also aims to assure people that asking a person about what’s troubling them can make a positive difference. 

People who have tried to take their life can teach us about how the words and actions of others are important. They often talk movingly about reaching the point where they could see no alternative but to take their own life. Despite this, they also had a strong desire to live but wanted someone to intervene and stop them from ending their life. By taking a minute to show you care and asking directly about suicide, you could change their life. 

Elaine MacKay, Choose Life Co-ordinator in the Western Isles, said “If someone you are close to shows signs of not being themselves, you will normally notice.  When changes in their behaviour begin to worry you – even if the signs come and go – the most important aspect is to ask them about it. 

“Talking openly about their feelings can help a person get clarity about what is troubling them. Starting this conversation helps them gain a perspective on their distress. You don’t need to have a solution to their problems – being there for them and listening, without judgement, shows that you care and that their distress, and ultimately their happiness, is important to you.” 

Elaine added: “Ask if they are thinking about suicide. It won’t put the thought into their head if it wasn’t there before, but it can be a big relief for them to be able to open up fully and acknowledge they need help and support.  By taking a minute to show you care you could change their life.” 

The campaign targets men and women who are likely to be in greatest contact with people most at risk of suicide – men aged 40-49, since statistics show that around three quarters of suicides have been men in every year since 1990.  

To support this campaign across the Western Isles, Choose Life is making widely available key message cards and booklets such as the Art of Conversation which gives advice on starting conversations about suicide and listening effectively. 

Raising awareness of suicide prevention and giving the public information is a vital part of the Choose Life programme. During 2017 Suicide Prevention Week, activities across the Western Isles include: 


Choose Life across the Western Isles has made a key contribution to the continued declining trends in suicide rates both nationally and locally by working in partnership with individuals and local communities as well as a strong commitment to raising capacity in the community to support those at risk of suicide by offering a number of suicide prevention training programmes. To date, over 1500 people have completed this training from a range of sectors. There are a number of local third sector who also support the suicide prevention agenda including WIAMH (Western Isles Association for Mental Health) and Penumbra who continue to raise awareness of mental health issues and provide support on the ground to keeping people safe.

For further information contact Elaine Mackay, Planning & Development Officer, Public Health Division, NHS Western Isles, tel. (01851) 708035 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.