A suicide-prevention centre in New Ferry is working with local organisations across the borough in a bid to create ‘suicide-safer’ communities.
The Martin Gallier Project has trained over 20 Wirral-based tattooists, hairdressers, taxi drivers, tradespeople and baristas in suicide prevention since 2019.
Thanks to generous joint funding from The Merseyside Community Investment Fund and The Price Parry Trust, members of the public and organisations can develop skills in life-saving suicide first aid.
Through the delivery of a two-day interactive workshop, participants have received specialist training which seeks to reduce stigma and create ‘suicide-safer’ communities.
Known as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST ), suicide first-aid teaches participants to recognise when someone may be having thoughts of suicide. It also gives participants knowledge of how to support their immediate safety.
Wirral-based healthcare professionals and care providers have already been using this specialist training for many years – but the founder of The Martin Gallier Project, Jessica Gallier, believes we all have a role to play in creating suicide-safer communities.
She said: “As we have been supporting those in crisis within the community, we had noticed that individuals had been asking for help long before they reached a crisis point. Suicide is much more preventable if a person is supported before reaching crisis point and many had been seeking support at work – but unfortunately, those around them just didn’t have the understanding to respond appropriately. This potentially causes individuals to slip further into crisis.”
Suicide prevention has long been a core mission for The Martin Gallier Project.
Having lost her father Martin Gallier to suicide in February 2017, Jess decided to launch The Martin Gallier Project to keep her father’s memory alive. An audit from the Wirral Intelligence Service in September revealed there was a decrease in suicide verdicts between 2016 and 2018, but over half of all people who lost their lives to suicide in 2017 had received mental health support in the past.
Of that number, 38% of all people who died by suicide in Merseyside and Cheshire had a previous attempt on their record.
In line with this number, waiting times to access mental health support remain high, with people waiting up to 48 days before receiving a referral for talking therapies, counselling and emergency mental health treatment and up to two years for their first appointment.
By delivering ASIST training to local organisations, The Martin Gallier Project hopes to improve outcomes for the region – and thanks to their initiative in launching the project, participants are already making bold moves to creating suicide-safer communities.
Kym Dwyer is the owner and lead tattooist of Think Ink in Bromborough, and she is one of the dozens of ASIST graduates.
An avid supporter of The Martin Gallier Project since its launch, her studio recently fundraised over £400 by holding a month-long semi-colon tattoo event.
In Kym’s eyes, understanding how to support members of the public, and how to recognise individuals in crisis has added string to the studio’s bow.
Kym explains: “We deal with a lot of people from all cross-sections of society come through our doors, and people literally tell you everything when they are sat in the chair.
“It’s good to have the skills to be able to help direct and support people because you don’t always know what other people are going through.”
Trainees have already used their knowledge to save lives.
Gary Bateman, from Wirral Property Maintenance, completed his ASIST course in April last year.
Gary has already put his ASIST training into use – which has already helped at least two people to reach out and get the support they needed.
Gary said: “I was walking along one of the roads in Liverpool with friends weeks after doing the training when I spotted something on the road. At first, I thought it was a bag of rubbish, but as I got closer, I realised it was a man. We walked over to him, asked if he was okay, and he responded, saying “I want to die.”
“Straight away, I used the ASIST training. We spoke with him for a while, and we offered him a cigarette - so long as he came with us and sat on the pavement. He wanted a cigarette, so he agreed to come on over. That was his turning point – and it helped us get him to a place of safety.”
As one of the facilitators of Martin’s Man Cave in New Ferry, Gary believes there is still a stigma which prevents people – especially men – from getting treatment.
Gary said: “We have seen men pacing up and down the street, looking at the centre, but taking ages to cross the street and open the door.
“There is definitely still a big stigma when it comes to talking about suicide, but little by little, it’s getting better.”
The Martin Gallier Project have now launched their own stamp of approval for “suicide safer organisations”, which can be spotted on the windows of selected premises.
ASIST workshops will be available throughout the year, to all members of the public – and Jessica is proud of the work achieved so far.
Jessica said: “Sometimes, we tend to trust and disclose our feelings to those around us, despite them not being a medical professional.
“This training enables organisations to be able to deliver suicide interventions to their customers at the earliest possible opportunity, and each has gone on the save at least one life thus far.
“We created the stamp of approval for organisations to proudly display in their workplaces so that those struggling with thoughts of suicide know they are in a safe place to disclose their plans and receive the support that could potentially save their life.”