World Suicide Prevention Day: Herts charity Hector’s House offers advice to help prevent further tragedies

Lottie Stringer from Hector's House and Richard Batchelar, general manager of The Beech House in St

Lottie Stringer from Hector's House and Richard Batchelar, general manager of The Beech House in St Albans, with Stacey Turner from It's OK To Say. - Credit: Archant

A Herts mental health awareness charity is marking World Suicide Prevention Day by calling on residents to help prevent the tragedy of more people taking their own lives.

In 2011, Hector Stringer - a fun-loving, talented and popular 18-year-old - took his own life. His family and friends were devastated, and said how they wished he had opened up about how he was feeling. The Stringer family set up Hector’s House in his memory as a signposting and mental health awareness charity, and they are urging everyone in the area to join their mission to stop suicide.

Hec’s sister Lotte, the charity’s chief executive, shares her advice on how to open up if you are struggling, how to listen if your loved one is in a crisis with their mental health, and some helplines that could save a life.

Here are a few tips on how to start the conversation about your mental health. This can be a friend, partner or a family member – anyone you trust and feel comfortable around.

A simple text to say ‘hey, are you free at the moment? Could do with a chat’ can be a real light-hearted way to get the conversation started.

You could arrange to see this person for a coffee, or go for a walk, or anywhere at all that you feel comfortable to talk.

Opening up or telling someone you have depression or anxiety doesn’t have to be a grand announcement – it can simply be you saying ‘I haven’t really been feeling myself’ or ‘I’m going through a bit of a tough time at the moment’.

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When the person responds, listen to what they have to say – they could have gone through something similar, or are still going through it. You can offer each other some really great advice and know that you have each other to turn to.

Not everyone will respond in the way you want, and that’s OK. If this happens, please don’t let it put you off trying again. There is always, always someone out there who will listen and care and give you the advice you need.

Did you know that over 30% of all GP appointments are due to mental health issues? Our point is – you will not be the first person to come looking for help – and you won’t be the last. Speaking to your doctor is a great way to get access to mental health care, and remember you are under no obligation to sign up to any therapy or medication straight away. You are always in control.

Feeling like this may be too much too soon? We are here for you. As a starting point, why not text HECTOR to 85258 - it’s free, confidential and open 24/7. A trained volunteer will respond and listen to you, and help you in this moment.

Are you worried about somebody’s mental health? Listening is vital when supporting someone who may be feeling depressed or suicidal. Simply being there can be enough to save a life - here are a few ways to actively listen if someone opens up to you:

The most important part of listening is to ensure the person knows they are being understood. Reassure them they are making sense, you understand and that you want to help them. You don’t need to have the ‘cure’ or the answers - just be present.

Validate their feelings as much as you can. And as hard as it may be, allow them to have problems without trying to solve everything.

Praise them on their braveness and openness - express how much it means to you that they’ve opened up to you. Reassure them they aren’t alone and you will get through this together.

Offer to look for support together, give them a helpline to contact and check back in on them in a few days’ time.

Look after yourself - you can’t pour from an empty cup, and caring for others may have a drain on your own mental health. Practice lots of restorative self-care and get rest so you can continue being helpful to yourself and others.

Any step you make to talk about your mental health is a fantastic, brave and important step to your recovery. And you should be really proud of yourself for making it this far. However, if this is all too much and you don’t think you are ready, there is no shame in that.

Text HECTOR to 85258, call Samaritans on 116 123, or for under 35s, call Papyrus’ HOPELINE on 0800 068 4141.