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Blue Monday Q & A: Amparo Support after Suicide

Content note: Mentions suicide and suicide support.

The third Monday of January, dubbed ‘Blue Monday’, is said to be the most depressing day of the year – due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold and dark weather and the arrival of unpaid bills.

While the origins of the day are now purported to have been a PR stunt, the day remains a great opportunity for mental health champions and organisations to discuss complex issues and offer support.

Ahead of Blue Monday, we chatted with Sheila Houghton, a Suicide Liaison Worker from local service Amparo about the support available in Wirral.  

Q: What is Amparo all about?

Sheila: “Amparo is a service that supports anyone who has been affected by suicide.  It’s run by Listening Ear, which is a Merseyside-wide counselling charity with over a quarter of a century of experience of helping people deal with bereavement, separation or loss. 

“Amparo itself doesn’t provide counselling – we focus instead on helping people with the practical and emotional issues they might face if someone they know has taken their life by suicide.

“This could be anything from dealing with the coroner, helping with any media enquiries or liaising with the police.  When someone has experienced suicide in their family or amongst their friends, they can feel isolated and sometimes even shunned by others. Amparo helps overcome this by putting you in touch with services that can help.”

Q: How does the service work? What’s the process?

Sheila: “We try to offer a responsive service, by getting back quickly to anyone who contacts us. We’ll then arrange to meet at your home or other convenient location to talk through the help you need, and we try to make the service personal to you. We can also take referrals from GPs, the police, coroners or other professionals.”

Q: How long do people typically access support?

Sheila: “Everyone’s different, so how much support they feel they need is entirely up to them. We usually help people until at least an inquest has been held – this can be a number of weeks after a suicide is reported. But some people find they need support beyond this, even if it’s just a phone call now and again. We’re happy to tailor support to what’s needed, and there’s no time limit on this.”

Q: What is the Wirral picture like?

Sheila: “I live in Wirral, so tend to support people in this area, but I have colleagues available from across Cheshire and Merseyside who can help if needed. Between January - December 2019, we received 125 referrals across Cheshire and Merseyside, and just under 10% of these were from people in the Wirral.”

Q: Who can access your support?

Sheila: “We work with anyone who feels they have been affected by suicide.  This could be a family member, a work colleague, or a friend. There is no age limit, as we know children can be particularly affected by suicide in the family.”

Q: What if I’m still struggling after I’ve accessed support?

Sheila: “We have links to a wide range of local and national organisations who can provide continued help and support, as well as expertise in counselling, should this be needed, through our parent organisation Listening Ear or other counselling organisations.”

Q: What do you think of ‘Blue Monday’? Is it a real thing?

Sheila: “There are definitely times of the year when we all feel a bit more ‘down’, and the cold weather and dark mornings and nights certainly don’t help, but ‘Blue Monday’ was an idea developed by a holiday company to try to boost sales!

“Still, it’s a good chance to highlight the support that’s out there and hopefully people will remember who can help when they need it. In reality, we need to be mindful of people’s mental health all year round.”

 

Looking for support?

  • In an emergency, always dial 999.

  • In a non-emergency, you can call 111 or, if you’re under 18, dial the CAMHS Central Advice and Duty Line 0151 488 8453.

The following advice lines and opening times may also be of use:

  • Samaritans, open 24/7: 116 123.
  • CALM helpline (support for men), 5pm – midnight every day: 0800 58 58 58.
  • Silver Line (support for older people), open 24/7: 0800 470 8090.
  • Anxiety UK Helpline, weekdays 9.30am - 5.30pm: 0344 477 5774.
  • Papyrus (specialist organisation for preventing Young People's suicide), weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm: 0800 068 4141.