Michael Mansfield’s ‘Silence of Suicide’ event attracts huge audience at University of Huddersfield

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Michael Mansfield and Yvette Greenway

Michael Mansfield’s ‘Silence of Suicide’ event attracts huge audience at University

The event shattered the stigma surrounding suicide by providing an open forum for people who have attempted suicide or those affected by the suicide of someone close

WE need opportunities to come together and talk about suicide more freely if we are to breakdown the stigma surrounding it, said top barrister Michael Mansfield QC at an event held at the University of Huddersfield.

The event was part of the SOS Silence of Suicide campaign launched by Michael Mansfield and his partner Yvette Greenway after his own daughter Anna tragically took her own life in May 2015.   It was through this personal loss they experienced the taboo surrounding suicide and how nobody dares to talk about it.

Since then the pair have toured the country holding stigma-free networking meetings to give people a platform to come together and talk about their experiences whether they have contemplated or attempted suicide, suffer from mental illness, or been bereaved when a loved one did take the tragic step.   

Mr Mansfield expressed the need for spaces in communities and workplaces where people can come together and talk without the fear of judgement or stigma.  He implored the audience to continue talking about suicide and Ms Greenway suggested the audience take the SOS idea of networking into the future by holding their own local meetings.

This idea was also reiterated later by members of the audience when they spoke about the lack of provisions outside Leeds and Bradford for group discussions on suicide and mental illness.

A university student who knows only too well the benefits of speaking out is Celine Balantine. She was invited to be a guest speaker at the event by Ms Greenway after recently appearing in a BBC interview talking about her struggles with anxiety and depression.

“The first time I opened up on Facebook about my struggles,” said Celine, “I was worried I was going to be called a psycho and a looney, but this wasn’t the case at all.  I have received nothing but unconditional support and messages on how my speaking out has helped others in the same situation,” she said.

Celine told the audience about her recent stay in a local mental health unit and how she mistakenly thought of a gloomy and dark place with patients in straightjackets.  “But it couldn’t have been more different,” she said.

Ms Greenway then opened the floor to the audience and asked if there was anyone, who had attempted suicide, willing to speak.

A female said how as a teenager she had made two unsuccessful attempts to take her own life but had also experienced the emotion as a bereaved relative after losing her father to suicide.  On both occasions, support was lacking, she said.

The charitable voluntary organisation Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) explained how they had a national helpline number open daily.  However, agreed about the lack of self-help support groups available in Kirklees as they only had three Yorkshire offices; in Sheffield, Bradford and Hull.

The viewpoint of adults and children not being used to failure because society only applauds success, was raised by a mother whose son had tragically taken his own life and how men were harder to reach than women at talking about their emotions.

Mr Mansfield said the internet had become a social issue with children becoming isolated because of the ironically named ‘social’ media and quoted statistics that children as young as eight years old are now contemplating suicide.

Speaking from the University was Dr Sarah Kendal and Steven Lyons.  They spoke about how the three concerns people have on loss, identity and belonging, can be overcome by sharing with others in the same situation and the support strategies the University teaches its students in training to be mental health nurses.

Nearly two hundred people attended Yorkshire’s first SOS networking event organised with the assistance of Senior Law Lecturer Phil Drake.

He said: “It was an incredibly moving event that started off as a discussion about a taboo subject and ended with people sharing their stories and being heard in a supportive and caring environment.”

You can watch the SOS Silence of Suicide film, which was shown at the beginning of the meeting and was co-produced and directed by Jasper Warry and Yvette Greenway of Anna Christian Productions

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