Innovative community scheme aims to make suicide everybody’s business

A partnership of NHS and voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise groups in Lancashire and South Cumbria has come together to launch the Orange Button Community Scheme on World Suicide Prevention Day today.

People who are having thoughts of suicide, or who are worried about a friend or family member, can now push the button when they see someone wearing a distinctive orange badge, and ask them for information and support.

The orange button is worn by people in Lancashire and South Cumbria who have undergone extensive suicide prevention training, and while they are not able to counsel people, they can provide comprehensive signposting to relevant services.

There is also an orange button sticker that can be supplied to businesses and organisations such as cafes, shops and pubs, to place in a prominent window alerting people to trained staff available to help.

Scheme founder, Rebecca Chesworth said:

“The idea for Orange Button came about after the suicide of one of the members of a mental health charity I worked at. Andy was a very popular and supportive member. I had worked very closely with him as he battled with suicidal thoughts and overwhelming shame. He took his own life close to where I live and close to a venue of the charity. It was just 30 minutes until the charity would open.

“I thought if there had been a place in the community close by that he could go to in order to access help instantly that it might have made all the difference to him. I saw that there were shops close by which were open, and I came up with the idea for a community scheme: The Orange Button.

“The Orange Button is an instantly recognisable symbol and offers an easy way to ask for help. The idea is that anyone, in the community, with training in suicide awareness can help those of us who are struggling with our mental health to access immediate help and support.”

Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS Mental Health Deputy Director, Paul Hopley said:

“The Orange Button scheme is a way of recognising individuals who have had suicide awareness training – a community initiative, to help provide people with very early information and support. Having people identifiable as being suicide aware, can help to remove the stigma of talking about yours or others feelings. Anyone worried can seek the help of any individual wearing the badge, and they will signpost that person to suitable support.

“Suicide prevention really is everybody’s business – so building a community of orange button wearers in our area is an innovative scheme we’re pleased to be a part of.

“If you need information or signposting to support, push the orange button. Anyone struggling should call Samaritans on 116 123 or any of the organisations we have listed on our website healthierlsc.co.uk/MentalHealthSupport.”

Chief Executive of Lancashire Mind, Tommy McIlravey, said:

“It can be hard to talk about suicide. Just the thought of having a conversation about it is scary for many people. However, we have seen thousands of people across Lancashire show they want to do more by enrolling on one of our suicide prevention training programmes.

“We ensure they leave our training programmes with not just the confidence to support people who have disclosed suicidal thoughts; but also, to be able to start those difficult conversations when they are worried about someone.”

To find out more about the training on offer please visit this website.