SAMARITANS in Cheshire are encouraging anyone who needs to talk to do so, as charities and partners mark World Suicide Prevention Day.

Office of National Statistics figures show that, while suicide deaths sadly rose in Cheshire in 2018, the suicide rate over the past three years is lower than in previous periods.

Jan Scaplehorn is director of the mid Cheshire branch of the Samaritans charity, which operates from Manchester Road in Northwich.

The charity aims to reduce the incidence of suicide by encouraging people to talk about their thoughts and feelings, with volunteers manning phones and face-to-face sessions as well as engaging in the community.

Jan said: “There is such a problem with mental health issues, and it has been brought up into the open a lot more recently – there are a lot of people trying to do more about it.

“This weekend we were invited to go to the 1874 Northwich match and set up a stall there, and we also took part in Mindfulness Day, which was a good afternoon.

“We could see a couple of possible face-to-face visits arising from it – people who maybe didn’t know about the service beforehand. We try to get out and about as much as possible to raise awareness.”

The face-to-face sessions are an important part of the volunteer-run branch’s operations, and something which they are keen to promote and expand.

Across Cheshire West and Chester, there were 27 suicides in 2018 – up from 22 in 2017 but down on than the 17-year average of 28.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Cheshire East saw 37 recorded suicides last year, up from 28 and above its 17-year average of 30.

The death rate from 2016 to 2018 was 8.8 per 100,000 people in Cheshire East, compared to 8.7 in Cheshire West and Chester.

In recent years, the suicide rate has been as high as 11.4 in Cheshire West (2013-2015) and 11.2 in Cheshire East (2008-2010).

Across the north west, suicide rates for men are more than three-and-a-half times higher than women, at 17 compared to 4.8.

Jan said: “If you look at the [Cheshire] death rate, that has lowered over the past three years although it does seem to be on the rise again which is worrying.

“We want people to know that the face-to-face service is available – if ever you see our door open, we are open to come in and talk to.”

Jan added her thanks to the wonderful listening and support volunteers, their dedication, and the amazing skills an knowledge they have accumulated and show day-to-day.

She also paid tribute to the Cheshire community for their generosity, appreciation and kindness.

Volunteers in mid Cheshire rack up around 22 shifts a week, generally of three and a half hours each.

Following a rigorous application procedure, new recruits will complete training modules and roleplay, learn from mentors and shadow existing volunteers – a process taking between six and nine months.

Active Cheshire also promote mental health self-care through a number of initiatives, including the Active Minds campaign, partnerships, and targeted activity programmes.

This week is Suicide Prevention Week, with today, Tuesday, World Suicide Prevention Day.

A Samaritans spokesman said: "If you need someone to talk to, we listen. We won't judge or tell you what to do.

"Call us any time, day or night. Whatever you're going through, you can call us any time, from any phone for free."

To find out more about Samaritans or speak to a volunteer at any time of the day or night, see or call 116 123 for free.