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Emergency services / Coastguard reaches out to NHS for mental health and suicide prevention training

THE COASTGUARD has teamed up with the NHS to provide specialist mental health and suicide prevention training to its rescue officers in Shetland and Orkney.

Coastal operations area commander Dave Sweeney contacted NHS Shetland to ask about suitable courses after his teams handled several incidents involving self-harm this summer.

He said he recognised a need to better prepare his volunteers for the most upsetting circumstances.

“It’s not a common issue for our teams to deal with,” Sweeney said. “But it does happen sadly and, when it does, it can be devastating for everyone involved.

“We unfortunately had two sad call-outs quite close together and I wondered what we could do to help, if there was any training that we could get to give us the tools to help prevent further tragedies.”

The first of three three-hour sessions has already taken place with 13 coastguard rescue officers (CROs) so far benefitting from the focused prevention and awareness training.

The following two sessions, in the coming months, will see 35 more CROs receive the training.

NHS Shetland’s suicide prevention lead Melanie Hawkins said: “We arranged a series of training evenings, and the feedback so far has been really positive.

“The sessions aim to help people feel more confident speaking about mental health, to recognise the signs that someone might be struggling, to ask them if they are feeling suicidal and to know what to say and do if they need help.

“It’s so important that we have as many people as we can in our community who feel able to talk about mental health and suicide and to know how to access further support.”

The course is split into three sections of awareness, identification, and action.

Part one covers the identification of ways to support others to have good health as well as learning how to boost your own, discussing the prevalence of mental health issues and what can have a negative impact as well as identifying what to do when you are worried about someone’s mental health.

Part two focuses on recognising the signs that someone might be in distress or considering taking their own life, demonstrating an awareness of the risks associated to a sudden improvement in mood or calmness, identifying ways to start holding a healthy conversation and being non-judgemental in dealings, learning to listen.

Part three will bring it together by teaching how to talk openly about suicide, recognising your role in suicide prevention and knowing what to do when someone is experiencing poor mental health or feeling suicidal.

NHS Shetland’s mental health team can be contacted on 01595 743006 or shet.mentalhealth@nhs.scot

The national Breathing Space helpline is available for anyone needing to speak about their thoughts on 0800 838587. It is open Monday to Thursday 6pm to 2am and Friday to Monday 6pm to 6am.

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