OVER the past five years, 777 people across East Lancashire have died because of suicide ­— that is 155 lives a year, 13 a month or three a week.

As rates of suicide rocket across the country, four of East Lancashire’s six boroughs have bucked the national trend, with numbers decreasing as charities work around the clock to help those most in need - with campaigns and initiatives being launched today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, in a bid to lower the numbers even more.

But as the coronavirus pandemic goes on, several organisations have spoken out over fears that rates could be set to grow further, with prolonged periods of isolation, partnered with a looming economic recession two areas of concern.

Last month the Samaritans revealed that two in five men believed their mental health had been negatively affected by lockdown measures.

The charity’s survey – released to mark its new campaign Real People, Real Stories – also found that 40 per cent of men said talking to others had helped with concerns or worries during lockdown.

Dozens of other organisations - both national and local - have also launched programmes and initiatives to prove that help is available, desperate to show people there is always an alternative option to suicide.

Today Blackburn with Darwen Council launch their week-long digital drive in a bid to raise awareness of the issue – a little different to how the authority would usually mark the day due to the pandemic.

As in previous years a 40 seconds’ silence will take place at 11.40am to signify the fact that in their ‘eleventh hour’ one person dies of suicide around the world every 40 seconds.

The concept of a 40 second silence was developed for World Suicide Prevention Day in 2018 by Tony Harrison, from Darwen, a father bereaved by suicide.

Also a trustee of the charity PAPYRUS, Mr Harrison lost his daughter Vicky to suicide in 2010 and has been raising awareness ever since.

The council is teaming up with Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System on the online campaign, promoting suicide prevention activity and key mental health services from across Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Councillor Damian Talbot, Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “The effects of suicide spread far and wide with family, friends and whole communities impacted. Every story is heart breaking and we must do what we can to break the silence.”

Paul Hopley, ICS Mental Health Deputy Director, added: “Marking World Suicide Prevention Day this year is more important than ever. It has been a year of great change for all of us, so we’d urge everyone in Blackburn and Darwen to take part in this quiet moment of reflection, wherever they are on September 10.”

Earlier on in the summer, Lancashire mental health charity PAPYRUS launched a new campaign to urge people to talk if they were feeling suicidal.

‘Don’t Mask How you Really Feel’ was created following news of the compulsory use of face coverings in public space and supermarkets, with hopes that the high-impact campaign would provoke a response among young people and others concerned about suicide.

Speaking at the time, Ged Flynn, Chief Executive of PAPYRUS, said: “There is much debate about face masks just now. For some, masks are seen as protective; for others, masks are an obstacle or a barrier.

“Young people often find it difficult to express their emotions, especially when their circumstances change. Lockdown is a good example of how a sudden change can have a huge impact on young people. Staying at home, working or learning in a new environment, having less privacy and having less access to friends, families and colleagues, all mitigate against feeling safe and emotionally well.

“I would urge us all to help young people navigate the new normal and not to wait for them to struggle or suffer. We all need to find new ways of enabling our young people to be themselves, to express themselves, to share their challenges as well as their achievements.

“Children and young people are often grieving, reacting to the losses which come with change. We need to help them learn how to live through these difficult times. PAPYRUS is here to support you and them to enable life, however difficult this can be just now, and ultimately to prevent harm and death.

“There are many hidden faces of despair out there and they need to know there is someone to talk to and that help is available.”

If you are struggling with your mental health, contact Samaritans on the phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email jo@samaritans.org, in confidence