I’m contacting you this evening in regards to a subject that has effected my life greatly in recent months. I lost my brother to suicide back in February. Rather than wallow in sorrow, I have been racking my brain for ways to make a change and a difference so that there are more preventative measures in place.
The reason I have picked all of you specifically, is the varying degrees of experience and positions. Sir Paul Beresford is my local MP but is also a very long serving and experienced MP, so might have some good contacts in relation to this. Jackie Doyle-Price is Under Secretary of State for Mental Health and Inequalities, I felt this was part of her role as this is aimed directly at this department. Matt Hancock as he is the Health Secretary and that is an all encompassing title, due to Mental Health being at the forefront of debate at this present time. Finally, the Prime Minister because she has the power to make the decision that could save thousands of lives and could use her position to highlight the importance of mental health.
The two ideas that I have come up with are 1. Introduce a phone number dedicated to suicide. I understand there are organisations like CALM and Samaritans, however if you were to ask me their telephone numbers I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head. My idea is to use the number 4357 as it spells out HELP on the keypad of a phone, so is very easy to remember. Considering the way that technology has taken over everyone’s lives, this is a quick and easy way of ensuring you’re never more than a call away from help. Much like the 999 emergency number it’s short and will stick in people’s heads. Also it would free up precious resources in regards to 999 operators not needing to put suicidal people through to police or ambulance services, as the call wouldn’t need to be made, freeing up more time for other important calls. I talk from experience as my father was in the ambulance service for almost 30 years and spent time in the emergency dispatch centre as a child. If the number did ever get used in this way, i’d also like to lobby phone companies to have the number saved in every new handset sold. Slowly but surely our subconscious would know that you’re never truly alone. When someone is so low that they’re contemplating suicide they don’t always think to reach out, searching for numbers online. If the number was already on their phone and they were scrolling through their contacts, wanting to call a friend or family member but scared they might be judged or thought of as crazy, it gives them a quick and easy option to get connected to someone who can help.
2. I wanted to float the idea of creating an app called Buddy. Day in day out, we all ask each other ‘you alright?’. Usually we answer ‘yeah’ or ‘fine’. Even though we might not be as it’s an automatic response. What if there was an app that popped up and messaged you every day, asking ‘how’s your mental state today?’. Ideally programmed like Siri on iPhones, to give positive responses or if someone is really in desperate need of help give them information and direct them to organisations that can help. The fact that it would be an app and taking human interaction out of it to begin with is the key. You’re more likely to open up to a computer that has no preset emotions or preconceptions, judgements or social stigmas attached. Say for example you replied ‘i’m really low, i’m thinking of ending it all’ it would message back with a phone number for Samaritans or a webchat from someone willing to talk. Or if you say ‘i’m depressed’ it would give you a positive response like ‘don’t worry, there’s always help. Here’s a link to CALM, they help similar people who are in the same situation as you’ and give you information about CALM or MIND.
I understand you’re not going to get to everyone but the best thing we can do is try and save as many lives as possible. All of you i’m sure got into politics to make a change or a difference and to help people in some capacity. I don’t completely believe how most politicians are painted to be career politicians and are only in it for the money. I don’t want anything out of this other than to help people like my brother. The app would be free to use and accessible to all. It could be targeted at schools and young people as this is where most of the problems of later life start. My brother had issues in his childhood and turned to hard drugs in his teens, exacerbating his problems and it sent him on a downward spiral to his unfortunate end. Sorry to be morbid but you have to get where i’m coming from.
I also wanted to point towards the manifesto that you got voted in on, which I voted for. You wanted to be at the forefront of the digital age. To do so you must engage with the digital world and especially if you want to get through to younger people, as we have to get through to them on their own level. We can do this by weaponising the very thing they use the most, their phones. This counts as you wanted to ‘transform the management of our digital infrastructure’. Going ahead with these ideas is adding to the digital infrastructure of this country. It will become entrenched in the national psyche with the right campaign. We would also be a leading light in the world in this topic, as I have spoken to a few friends dotted around the globe and for example in Australia it would work too. It could be a universal number for all of the English speaking countries of the world. Something which you alluded to in your manifesto as well in regards to ‘maintaining the historical, cultural and economic ties that link us to our old friends and
allies around the globe’. You also promised ‘We will make the UK the leading research and technology economy in
the world for mental health, bringing together public, private and charitable investment’. We’re all working towards the same end goal of ending social stigma and getting those that need it, the help they deserve.
I hope that you all can agree with me on this and that it heightens the awareness of mental health issues in this country. Nothing could help more at the moment than something like HELP, which becomes a beacon of hope to all silent sufferers across the country and the globe. For once you can take a step towards helping them all, directing and guiding them to the resources we as a nation offer. It would also prove you are doing your upmost to help prevent them from doing anything final. The statistics are frightening enough. We spend plenty of money on trying to save lives conventionally through the NHS and the ambulance service. It’s time for a change of perspective and how we view ‘saving lives’. Maybe an initiative to get all GPs and doctors to have mental health training and understanding of living with the illness. From speaking to others who have used this service, GPs aren’t the most sympathetic bunch. Which I don’t blame them for. If you don’t understand mental illness as you’ve never gone through it yourself, it’s hard to put yourself in those shoes.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this and look forward to hearing what feedback you have and what you have to offer on the subject. Like you say ‘Forward, Together’.