Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust is giving £5,000 to the Western Isles Association for Mental Health and a sizeable percentage of the money will cover the costs of delivering suicide prevention training, which is run by the WIAMH in partnership with NHS Western Isles.

Del Gunn, WIAMH Project Manager, said the ‘no strings attached’ nature of Point and Sandwick Trust’s donation meant that WIAMH was free to spend the money on any area it chose.

And now, given recent tragic events, it is targeting further expenditure on suicide prevention training and raising awareness around the issues of suicide.

Point and Sandwick Trust has given a five-year commitment to supporting the Western Isles Association for Mental Health and other organisations which also help vulnerable groups, including Western Isles Foyer and the Hebrides Alpha Project.

The Western Isles Association for Mental Health has been running for more than 20 years and manages the Catch 23 drop-in service at its base at 23 Bayhead in Stornoway.

Some of the funding from Point and Sandwick Trust will go towards Catch 23, which is open six days a week, from 12noon till 4pm on a weekday and 11am to 3pm on a Saturday.

Catch 23 is a recovery-based drop-in for people to meet who are faced with a wide range of mental health and substance misuse issues and runs focused activities such as arts sessions and writing groups during the week.

The Association has three project support workers, all part-time, and a couple of session workers to deliver the arts and writing activities. It also has invaluable volunteer support.

Project Manager Del Gunn said had been increased demand for suicide prevention training, so that was where some of the current funding from Point and Sandwick Trust would go.

He expects the amount of suicide prevention training delivered in 2018/19 to be double the amount delivered in 2017/18.

There are currently two suicide prevention courses by WIAMH – the two-day ASIST course, which is suitable for over-18s, and the one-hour SuicideTALK course, which is suitable for the over-15s. Plans are underway for delivering the hour-long talks to senior school groups, while the schedule for ASIST courses is filling up.  There is also a half-day course (SafeTalk) delivered by NHS representatives. ASIST stands for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training and is delivered by two trainers.

When Del delivers ASIST courses, he often works in partnership with Elaine Mackay, NHS Western Isles Planning and Development Officer, and Norma Neill, former NHS Senior Health Promotion Officer, based in Benbecula.

These courses are delivered to public agencies, the general public and other interested individuals, such as teachers and youth group workers.

Del said he personally would be involved in suicide awareness sessions with 40 new people in the coming fortnight and there seemed to be “a genuine interest in this”. He said training delivery would “continue to increase” and there would be a demand for repeat training, too.

His message was clear. “If you are concerned about someone in the community, don’t ignore it. Do not ignore that person. Go with your gut instinct. That’s the key.

“We need to start working on the community’s resilience and this can be done through training and having better awareness of people who are struggling.”

He said that “all ages” could be affected by suicide, adding: “ “We don’t talk to each other how we used to. Nowadays it’s often done by text, email and Facebook. We possibly don’t know our friends as well as we should. Although social media does have some positive attributes, I also feel it has a darker side that has a lot to answer for.”

Donald John MacSween, General Manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “One life lost to suicide is one too many. We are pleased to be in a position to help Western Isles Association for Mental Health and NHS Western Isles deliver what is genuinely life-saving work.

“We believe that the managers of these services are the people who have the best knowledge about what needs to be done, and that is why we don’t put any caveats on our donations to their services. We would like to commend WIAMH for the valuable work they do in the community.

“It is of great importance and that is why we have given a five-year commitment to support them.” 

Picture caption, left to right: Del Gunn, Western Isles Association for Mental Health Project Manager, with long-standing volunteers Al Smith (centre) and Frances Allison. Picture by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos