A CHARITY volunteer is urging people not to be afraid to talk about suicide.

Alastair Sharp, who is on the board of trustees for Samaritans West Cumbria, wants people to be aware of the warning signs and know what to do if they believe someone is thinking about suicide.

Cumbria has one of the highest suicide rates in the UK. On average one person a week takes their own life in the county.

The latest figures released by Public Health England reveal between 2015 and 2017, the suicide rate in Cumbria was 12.1 per 100,000 population, compared to the national rate of 9.6 per 100,000.

Mr Sharp said there are a number of things people can do to help if someone they know is feeling suicidal.

“The obvious one being don’t leave them alone. Stay with them. Get them to talk about how they are feeling.

“Don’t tell them how they should be feeling and try not to say too much. Just use probing questions to get them to talk to you.

“Whatever they say, don’t make any judgement on it and don’t tell them they shouldn’t be thinking like that.”

Mr Sharp, who has been a Samaritans volunteer for 18 years, said people should not be frightened to have a conversation about suicide.

“Some people just think, I can’t ask that, but the person you are talking to has thought about it, and they may not have told anybody, so telling is part of releasing the stress of feeling like that, and reduces the chance of them doing it.”

Mr Sharp said there was a misconception that talking about suicide could lead to suicidal behaviour.

“I remember a question once at one of my sessions about this and saying if you talk about it you may make them suicidal but in fact it’s the opposite. It will make them less suicidal if you talk about it.

“There’s all sort of comment from mental health experts and psychiatrists confirming this.

“We always say it’s essential to talk about it if you have these issues and you are feeling suicidal. Talking saves lives.”