People having suicidal thoughts across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will soon have access to an army of trained volunteers who can help.
Launched by Cornwall Council and the local NHS next week, the ‘Orange Button Community Scheme’ aims to make people who have received mental health and suicide prevention training more visible to those who need support.
Thousands receive training each year – for example through workplace schemes – but there is currently no way for a member of the public to identify who has been trained, and therefore who to approach for advice and support.
By wearing a distinctive orange button, these trained volunteers will be easily recognisable to people having suicidal thoughts wherever they are, for example at work, in shops, pubs, cafes, libraries or just on the street.
The orange button signifies that the wearer knows how to listen, isn’t afraid to hear the word ‘suicide’, and will not judge them. Although they cannot offer counselling, they will be able to signpost individuals to the right support services.
In addition to ‘orange button’ badges and email signatures, a special sticker can also be supplied to businesses to place in windows so people know that there are trained staff available to help when needed.
The scheme was made available to Cornwall Council and NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) staff during September but is now being rolled out more widely.
It is open to anyone who lives or works in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and more people are being encouraged to undergo the training so they can sign up as orange button volunteers.
Statistics show the rate of suicide deaths in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is consistently higher than the national average.
Paula Chappell, Health Practitioner and suicide prevention lead in Cornwall’s Public Health team, said:
“Every single death represents an individual tragedy and a devastating bereavement for family and friends. The impact also extends into the wider community and to all services involved, with an estimated 135 people affected by each suicide.
“In recent years, less than a third of people who died by suicide had contact with mental health services in the year before their death, highlighting the need for members of communities to learn active listening skills and know where to find signposting information to share.
“We would urge as many people as possible with suicide prevention and mental health training to engage with the Orange Button scheme and help us in our drive to prevent all suicides in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.”
Cllr Dr Andy Virr, Portfolio Holder for Adults and Public Health at Cornwall Council, added:
“There is still a lot of stigma around suicide and mental health in general so schemes like Orange Button are vital to support people who might be suffering in silence in our communities.
“The more we can break down those barriers and empower people to speak openly and honestly about their feelings, the better for everyone.”
For more information, and to find out how to receive suicide prevention training, visit www.cornwall.gov.uk/orangebutton