Charity's increase in North Staffordshire 'suicide' callers
A MENTAL health helpline has reported a dramatic increase in suicidal callers.
Social exclusion charity Brighter Futures says the number of its callers talking about killing themselves has shot up by 15 per cent this summer.
The news comes as the Government promises to invest £1.5 million into research on how to prevent suicides.
North Staffordshire Coroner called for action to be taken on the issue in July, after dealing with 29 suicide cases in the first half of the year.
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Most of these involved men aged between 40 and 60 who had lost their jobs or suffered marital breakdown.
Since The Sentinel revealed the shock increase and highlighted Brighter Future's helpline, the charity has seen a big rise in new callers.
Calls from men have doubled in the last three months, while the overall number of calls has increased by 25 per cent in the last six months.
Chief executive Gill Brown said: "The Sentinel's response and help in promoting the helpline has raised awareness that support is out there and we are grateful."
Latest figures show 563 people called the Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline in the financial year 2011/12, with 199 thinking up a plan to kill themselves.
That compares with 524 callers in 2010/11, with 147 of them having a plan, and 466 callers in 2009/10, with 124 having a plan.
Citizens Advice Bureau experts say there is a direct link between the faltering economy and an increase in people taking their own lives.
Sharon Sharman, manager of the helpline, said money was a key issue for many callers.
She said: "The Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline has been running for over 12 years but this year we have seen a huge increase in the demand for support from the service.
"The most common reasons for people to ring the helpline are due to anxiety, depression or relationship problems. Many are struggling with debt, unemployment or are at risk of losing their jobs.
"We offer a non-judgmental, completely confidential service to people who need to talk about their problems. We can tell people about services local to them that offer support or just be a listening ear so people can off-load."
Government ministers launched a strategy to prevent suicides yesterday, to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day.
Funding will be used to look at how suicides can be reduced among people with a history of self-harm. Researchers will also focus on cutting suicides among children and young people and exploring how and why suicidal people use the internet.
Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline is open 365 days a year, from 7pm to 2am weekdays and 2pm to 2am weekends. Call free on 0808 800 2234.