Extraordinary People

Feel on the edge? Suicide helpline set up by local hero for people in crisis

Michael Everett patrols local suicide hotspots with his team

Whether it’s a fear of shame, blame or guilt, telling family and friends our innermost thoughts can be a terrifying prospect.

Yet with NHS waiting lists often longer than a year for access to therapy, and private counselling not an option for many of us, who exactly are we meant to turn to?

When a local lad from Bristol reflected on this injustice, Michael Everett decided to take action himself and metamorphosed into a wellbeing champ worthy of a MBE.  

He recognised that people in crisis can no longer rely solely on healthcare services, and desperately need an olive branch from fellow residents in their community too.

[Credit: Suicide Prevention Bristol]

So, he got to work and began patrolling local suicide hotspots in his city to offer those in need a non-judgement ear and guide them through a mental health emergency.

We caught up with Michael to find out why it all started and how his lifeline has evolved.

Michael said: “I felt really saddened hearing the news of a lady, with her four-day-old, that took their lives in the Clifton area of Bristol under the care of a local maternity hospital.

“I know now more than ever, that when it comes to caring for someone so vulnerable, the duty of care lies within many people, and we are a part of that.

“Being so moved by this awful news report, I started casually patrolling local hotspots well-known for suicide attempts. This is what inspired me to start Suicide Prevention Bristol.”

[Credit: Suicide Prevention Bristol]

Within a year, Michael had recruited other volunteers to help patrol and collectively they launched a phoneline, named ASSISTLine, to create a safe space for people in desperate need to talk and request help from emergency services which the team arrange for them.

The helpline proved successful and allowed locals who were going to make an attempt on their life an opportunity to receive phone support and/or face-to-face support from patrols.

Due to demand, the phoneline was later made available nationally and renamed the National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK to reflect this change, which is now open 24/7.

Michael said: “Moving forward, myself and my team of dedicated volunteers would love to see the helpline continue to grow, in terms of taking more calls.

“We currently receive around 200 calls in a 24-hour period and this is growing rapidly.”

[Credit: Suicide Prevention Bristol]

Michael continued: “Knowing the number of calls we get only reflects a fraction of people who are feeling suicidal pushes me to channel more of my energy into making sure national suicide prevention is readily available to everyone who needs us.

“I’m continuously inspired by my team of volunteers who give up hours of their time, day in and day out, for free to help other people.”

Tragically, there were 5,691 deaths by suicide in England and Wales cited in the most recent report from 2019, equating to an average of 18 suicides per day in the country.

Suicide Prevention Bristol’s ethos is that by engaging children and teens in discussion, in an age-appropriate way, we can lead to less people taking their own life in the future.

[Credit: Suicide Prevention Bristol]

Michael concluded: “It’s no secret suicide is a taboo subject with a lot of stigma, the only way we can beat it is to start talking openly about this topic and mental health in general.

“We have moved forward as a nation in terms of recognising mental illness as a health condition, like any other, but we of course have further to go, for example, discussions within workplaces and educational settings would benefit our greater goal.”

He added: “Young people are not excluded from suicide and I believe if they feel they can talk openly about their feelings or thoughts around suicide it will result in less deaths.

“I’m proud to be playing our part in fighting this stigma and will continue to do so.”

To speak to Michael’s team for confidential advice, call 0800 689 5652.

Or click here: Suicide Prevention Bristol.


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