Now in its second year, the “Release the Pressure” campaign in Kent is continuing to see fantastic feedback and is having a tangible impact on the wellbeing of residents.
“Release the Pressure” is a campaign in Kent which aims to reduce the number of suicides in the county by encouraging men feeling under pressure to seek help by calling 0800 107 0160, where confidential support is available from trained and experienced staff on this freephone number 24 hours a day 365 days a year. The support helpline is provided by our MHM Telephone Support Workers, and is funded by Kent County Council.
The highly visual campaign was developed and launched by Kent County Council in 2016, in a bid to address figures which revealed that Kent has a higher rate of suicide than the national average, and which showed suicide is the leading killer of men under 45 in the area.* Men are less likely to seek help from friends, family or mental health services than women, and the campaign was developed based on research with focus groups which explored the pressures that men are under and in-depth interviews with individual men who shared their experiences and feelings that led them to contemplate suicide.
In April this year “Release the Pressure” campaign marked its first anniversary, and £150,000 of new funding was announced to bolster initiatives to reduce the number of suicides in the county and to diminish the stigma of mental health.
As the campaign continues, there has been a steady increase in the number of people accessing the helpline, and in 2016 there was a noticeable decrease in the numbers of people in Kent taking their own lives, illustrating the positive impact the campaign and helpline have immediately had.** Kent County Council Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark said: “We welcome this reduction in the number of male suicides, and we hope that our Release the Pressure campaign is helping to contribute to a culture where it is easier for men to speak about their problems in their lives. However every death from suicide is a tragedy, and we will continue to ensure that we do as much as we can to support everyone, male and female, when they are going through tough times. We invite organisations across Kent to contact us about newly funded suicide prevention training – just one conversation between colleagues, friends or team mates could help to save a life.” If you would like to register your interest in attending the free training which will be delivered later in the year, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan Heyes from MHM said: “Our 24/7 helpline is staffed by experienced counsellors who are there to provide you with a confidential, non-judgemental listening support service. You don’t have to go through this alone.”
One caller told us how much our Telephone Support Workers had helped, saying: “I am in my 60’s and never felt so low in all my life. I cannot talk to my family, I feel weak and pathetic. They look up to me, I sort their problems out; I am the man of the house. It is so much easier to talk to you, I can’t see you and you can’t see me. You have no idea how much it helps just to talk and not be told to cheer up. Thank you.”
MHM Telephone Support Worker Victoria reports: “I have taken many calls from men who have seen the campaign; it has targeted an age group of men who normally find it difficult to seek help, support and to talk to anyone. The difference it has made to many is immense – feeling more confident and opening up to me each time they call. I believe that this campaign is going from strength to strength and we are getting more calls daily from men seeking support. It is rewarding to support people who would normally keep these issues to themselves.”
Many callers have given the helpline glowing feedback which demonstrates how valuable the service is. Joe shared his story of how the campaign helped him:***
“The biggest challenge was admitting to myself that I needed help. Being a man, I didn’t know I was allowed to have these emotions and I didn’t know how to deal with them. I was nervous – I didn’t want to be judged.
“PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from my time in the army, an abusive relationship, health problems, debt . . . all these things built up. Feeling worthless and a failure, I was ready to end it all. It was only when I was about to take my own life that a police officer said something simple – ‘it can get better’. It broke my trance and it was only then that I first believed it could get better.”
Following this encounter, Joe saw the “Release the Pressure” campaign and reached out to the helpline. “I started to talk to someone and get help. Talking was the stone that laid the foundation of my recovery and although I still have memories I know how to deal with them.
“Don’t be scared to reach out; you aren’t going to be judged and hopefully, like me, you’ll feel a million times better.
“I always say to people now, ‘We can’t change yesterday but we can all change what happens tomorrow – it’s your call.’ Talking is that first step of doing something about it.”
The helpline team has received some fantastic feedback since this campaign began, which illustrates the vital impact it has on people’s wellbeing:
- ‘Getting your number was the best thing that has happened to me.’
- ‘Your organisation is my lifeline; if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here. I appreciate you all talking to me.’
- ‘I’m so glad I called – I had no idea it would leave me feeling so positive just by talking to you.’
Alan Heyes from Mental Health Matters adds: “Not everyone has friends or family that they can open up to, but we know that talking about issues can be a great way to start to feel better. Speaking to someone in our team who isn’t going to judge you, can help you start getting your life back on track.”
The “Release the Pressure” campaign will continue to be displayed at key sites across the county and will be promoted on social media, urging people to seek help by calling 0800 107 0160 where support is available from trained and experienced staff on this freephone number 24 hours a day 365 days a year. There is also a website for more details and case studies of how the campaign has helped men from Kent who have turned their lives around after attempting suicide: www.releasethepressure.uk
*Source – Kent Public Health Observatory and Public Health England http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile-group/mental-health/profile/suicide
The rate of suicide (both sexes) in Kent is higher than the national average (10.2 per 100,000 compared to 8.9 per 100,000 2012-2014 pooled data).
The suicide rate for males in Kent (2012-2014) is 16.5 deaths per 100,000 people. Nationally, the rate is 14.1 per 100,000 for men. For females in Kent (2012-2014), it is 4.1 deaths per 100,000 compared to 4.0 nationally.
** Kent registered 140 suicides overall in 2016. Of these, 104 (74%) were men which shows a slight fall from 116 male suicides the previous year.
*** Quotes are genuine, but names have been changed to protect confidentiality.