A MOTHER bereaved by suicide is now providing a “lifebelt” to others who are experiencing the same grief.

Karan Smith, who lost her son Stephen in 2010, has been running the West Cumbria group of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide for almost three years. And she says demand for support is increasing, which shows the group is a vital to the area.

“We are finding more and more people coming to us now. We wish nobody needed us. The phone doesn’t stop.”

Karan, who also works at Sellafield, said suicide affects people from all walks of life and it is often the person you least expect who is struggling most. “It can be anybody, and that’s what’s sad about it. It’s anybody from any walk of life at any age. It’s predominantly male but of late there’s a lot of young ladies.

“Nobody knows who is vulnerable. A lot of people before they commit suicide are the people who come to work, they smile, get on with their lives. These are the people who are vulnerable.

“You just don’t know what goes on in people’s lives. We all need to be there for each other.”

She said the group provides a safe space where people can talk to others who know exactly how they feel without even asking. “That means a lot. It’s a lifebelt for people, particularly in the west. There’s a lot of people who need us there.”

The group receives referrals from the hospital, police, funeral directors and counsellors.

Karan believes Cumbria’s mental health services are under increasing pressure. “I think they are struggling county wide. It’s as if we have just been forgotten about. Nobody seems to know where to go. There’s waiting lists a mile long. Some of these people are so vulnerable they can’t wait.”

Karan started attending SOBS meetings after her son’s death when they were held in Keswick. The group later moved to Carlisle so Karan contacted the SOBS national office and said she wanted to help, resulting in her kick-starting the west group. “It is so rewarding,” Karan said. “I’m bereaved myself and it’s healing for me knowing I’m helping people in exactly the same boat.”

n The West Cumbria SOBS group meets at the Senhouse Centre in Whitehaven on the second Tuesday of the month, from 7pm until 9pm.