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"Silence of Suicide"

 

Michael Mansfield QC - Silence of Suicide Talk

 

On a wet Saturday afternoon in September, families and friends touched by suicide gathered at St Mary’s University College to listen to Michael Mansfield QC and his partner Yvette Greenway. They spoke about a new initiative “Silence of Suicide”, which aims to dispel the stigma about mental health and raise awareness of the impact of suicide upon both those who have suicidal tendencies and those bereaved by suicide.

Michael is recognised as one of the boldest, most ebullient and radical barristers in these islands and has secured freedom for the victims of Britain's worst miscarriages of justice including the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six and has represented the families of Bloody Sunday and Stephen Lawrence.

He has spoken at St Mary’s on a number of occasions but today was different, he spoke personally as a grieving father, a man still suffering from deep shock after his treasured daughter Anna died by suicide in May 2015.

His partner Yvette showed a short video on the “Silence of Suicide” featuring testimonials from Ruby Wax, Michael himself and his son‑in‑law Carlos, who talked about mental health issues as bereaved family members. The former footballer Clark Carlisle also spoke of his own suicide attempts.

 

TOGETHER: Margaret Walsh, Tim Attwood, David Bell, Margaret Lismore, Yvette Greenway,
Esther Meighan and Michael Mansfield QC

 

Brendan and Donna – survivors of suicide – and other members of the audience told their powerful and personal emotional stories. They all highlighted the vital support they received from Suicide Awareness and Support Group and the importance of reaching out to talk to someone.

Michael and Yvette have been travelling to many similar events in the United Kingdom. Michael is keen to talk about his daughter’s death and highlights the stigma that surrounds those who take their own lives. He talks of the “elephant in the room” and the need to overcome the taboo about speaking about suicide. They want to encourage a wider conversation which may lead to a greater understanding of suicide and hopefully better prevention.

They are meeting Prime Minister Theresa May MP in November to press the case for greater resources for suicide prevention. In the Assembly, a new All Party Suicide Awareness Group met for the first time last week, with all parties represented. It will be campaigning for greater recognition and funding support for suicide prevention in the north of Ireland.

It must be recognised that behind the scenes, across the statutory, community and voluntary sectors, there is a lot of work going on to enable a better and more joined‑up approach to suicide prevention.

Medical and nursing staff do a miraculous job in the NHS to save lives. The staff and volunteers in Suicide Awareness and Support Group and other similar counselling organisations do amazing work saving lives and also need better funding.

Tim Attwood
Chair, Suicide Awareness and Support Group

If you need help contact Suicide Awareness and Support Group, 209 Falls Road, Belfast BT12 6FB 028 9023 9967.