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A new online suicide awareness training programme which has been completed by almost 1,700 people since its launch two weeks ago has been hailed by a RAF Sergeant from Dursley and she is urging more to take the 30-minute course.

The online course was created by Armed Forces charity Help for Heroes, which had revealed in research carried out by YouGov* that, while one in three military veterans have felt suicidal in their lifetime, more than half of adult Britons admit they would not know how to help someone struggling with suicidal thoughts.

The survey also revealed 65 per cent of the veterans are more likely to turn to a family member or friend for support than to a trained professional (25 per cent).

The Armed Forces charity is, therefore, looking to bridge this shortfall in knowledge by creating ‘suicide-safer communities. It is offering free training, available to all, in the hope more people will be able to identify veterans needing support and know how to signpost them to available support services to prevent another life being lost.

Working with Zero Suicide Alliance, the Charity has developed a 30-minute online training courseavailable to the general public, that will help anyone to open up a conversation, advising on how to spot the signs, and to assess what someone is really saying when it comes to preventing death by suicide.

Since a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) in November 2015, RAF Sergeant Georgie Smith, 43 who lives in Dursley has pushed through some tough times. This led to a bleak time in her career and personal life, and she suffered mental health issues, depression, and dark thoughts.

She was supported on her road to recovery by Help for Heroes and is now an ambassador for the Charity. She believes the training is ideally suited for the busy lives we lead.

She explained: “Since becoming an ambassador, other beneficiaries have got in touch with me at various points when theyve been struggling, one of whom was about to commit suicide, but, luckily, he reached out just before, and I was able to talk to him.

“The support Id had from Help for Heroes was important when dealing with that scenario. Id not had too much exposure to the community as a whole until I was involved myself, first, as a beneficiary and then, further down the line, as an ambassador. All that support Id been given, through my recovery journey, I could see the benefit to others.

“Ive had a fair bit of exposure to the dark thoughts myself and the process one goes through and know how important it is to talk and share those feelings with others.”

She added: “This training initiative is hugely important. We have busy lives; were a very busy culture, these days. Having the training in a video format gives people the convenience to take it at their leisure and, importantly, when theyre in the right state of mind to do it.

“You can also do it at your pace, to absorb it, and to reflect on it. Plus, you can rewatch it. You can refer to it and can pass it on to others who may be able to benefit from it.

“You cant put a price on a life. One life saved is hugely important and I know the charity doesnt think en masse, it thinks about individuals, case by case, who needs what at what time. If this video helps one person come away from some dark times in their life, then its done its job.”

Lis Skeet, Services Director at Help for Heroes, added: “As the research suggests, veterans often dont speak to professionals first. This initiative aims to find a way of opening the conversation with someone they trust and training them to be able to spot the signs. In doing so we may well prevent lives being lost to suicide.”

The Charitys suicide awareness training is a part of its wider Suicide Awareness and Self-Help (SASH) project, made possible through funding from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust as part of its ‘One is Too Many programme, designed to reduce veteran suicides.

Help for Heroes champions the Armed Forces community and helps them live well after service. The Charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives. It has already supported more than 27,000 people and wont stop until every veteran gets the support they deserve.

If youre a veteran looking to get support, visit helpforheroes.org.uk. Take the training at: helpforheroes.org.uk/get-help/mental-health-and-wellbeing/suicide-awareness.

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