Find out more about the suicide prevention work taking place in Doncaster as well as some useful advice about how we can all open up a conversation about suicide which could save lives.

For many people suicide can be a very difficult topic to discuss, but the more we talk about it the more we bring it out into the open and help to remove any stigma. We want our communities in Doncaster to be suicide aware and play a key role in the prevention and reduction of suicide by spotting early signs and creating opportunities for those thinking of suicide to ask for help.

Opening up a conversation about suicide

Introducing a vital member of the council’s public health team, Sarah Smith, who is a health improvement co-ordinator specialising in suicide prevention. Sarah is passionate about raising awareness of suicide and helping people feel more comfortable talking about what is often viewed as a very difficult topic as talking about suicide really can save lives. So, let’s find out more about Sarah’s role and what support she provides.

  Sarah Smith, Health Improvement Co-ordinator

Hi Sarah, tell us what your day-to-day job involves

Suicide can be a very difficult topic to talk about so part of my role is also to raise awareness of suicide and encourage people to open up conversations about it and seek support if they need it either for those who are suicidal themselves or for those who are concerned about a loved one. To do this we support and promote e-module training developed by the Zero Suicide Alliance, which also shares mental health information and services that can help support someone with mental health issues.

Why do you think suicide can be such a difficult topic for people to talk about?

There are still lots of outdated myths that talking or asking about suicide will increase the risk to act upon it, along with not knowing how to respond/act should someone say that they are thinking of suicide. Where do they send these people, what language should they use? There are lots of questions that people often don’t know the answers to so it can be easier to avoid them but we want to open up the conversation and provide the answers to help.

In addition, there is still lots of stigma around suicide from those who are suicidal themselves but also the loved ones of people who are suicidal or have taken their own lives. This includes the feelings of shame, guilt and rejection and also possible feelings of failure from people trying to support someone who is struggling. All these issues can make it a sensitive subject to broach.

What do you to try and do in your role to encourage people to talk more about it?

I try and dispel the myths wherever possible by reassuring people that it is ok to ‘ask’ the direct question and share the links to the Zero Suicide Alliance training, which in turn teaches people how to start conversations using different scenarios, for example with a stranger or a work colleague and how to respond. We get really positive feedback from the training and I think it gives people a bit of awareness and confidence to open up about it especially if they are worried about a loved one who may be suicidal.

What is your biggest piece of advice for people who may be concerned about a loved one’s mental health but are unsure of what next steps to take?

Most people thinking of suicide, don’t want to die and the best way to find out is to ask the direct question. I use the TALK principle as a guide: Tell, Ask, Listen and Keep safe

  • Talk – Start a conversation and show them that you care
  • Ask – Ask the person if they are thinking of suicide – be direct
  • Listen – listen to that person, are they in immediate danger or having thoughts of suicide
  • Keep Safe – make a realistic short term plan until you are able to help make a connection to a person or organisation who can help. Be realistic

An even bigger piece of advice would be for people to take the Zero Suicide Alliance training that we run so they are prepared. You can find out more about that here: Free online training from Zero Suicide Alliance

TALK principle as a guide to start the conversation: Tell, Ask, Listen and Keepsafe

Read Lynn's story

A community worker from Doncaster is hoping people will begin to talk more openly about suicide by encouraging them to attend special training sessions taking place in the city over the summer.

After losing three people close to her to suicide in the last 15 years and attending the training recently herself, Lynn Brookes, community engagement officer at Edlington Community Organisation, has teamed up with Doncaster Council’s public health team in the hope of raising awareness of the sessions so others will also attend.

The Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA) training, which is an online course and supported by the council’s Vulnerable People’s team, provides free suicide awareness training that teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Participants learn how to spot suicide warning signs, how to have a conversation with someone they’re worried about, where to direct someone for further support and understand that suicide can be preventable.

Lynn said: “Very sadly I have lost three people close to me to suicide including my brother 15 years ago and two very close friends in the last five years. This has obviously been devastating for me and my family and like many people who are affected by suicide I have had feelings of shame, guilt and that I could have done more to help them which are common feelings for those left behind and contribute to the stigma around it all.

“Even though I have been impacted by suicide in my life, I recently decided to attend the training because I wanted to understand more about it and, as time has gone on, find out if there are new approaches to it that I should be aware of.

“I already know how important talking about mental health and suicide is. We were very open with my brother but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to help him however, for others, just opening up a conversation could save a life and that’s where the training comes in by giving helpful advice about how to go about it.

“Being in a group on the day was interesting as all the people who attended had different experiences which was really useful to listen to. It definitely benefited me as it made me look at it in a different way and reinforced how talking more about it more can only help. I know others came away with a real understating of what signs to look out for and it gave them confidence and tips about how to approach what is a very difficult and sensitive subject if they were worried about someone they know.

“But even if you haven’t experienced suicidal thoughts yourself or are worried about a loved one’s mental health, the training really is beneficial for anyone. It’s very useful for everyone to equip themselves with a bit more knowledge about suicide because as I found you never know if it is going to impact you at some point in your life so why not be prepared if it sadly does. I’ll certainly never forget the training and have come away with a renewed understanding of how important it is to talk more openly about it. I really hope others will take up the opportunity and attend the upcoming sessions.”

Training and dates

The training, which has already been piloted in the North and the South localities of Doncaster, is once again being rolled out across Doncaster throughout 2024.  Dates are TBC so please revisit this page at a later date and also look out in your local community for new dates. 

The aim is for communities in Doncaster to be suicide aware and play a key role in the prevention and reduction of suicide by spotting early signs and creating opportunities for those thinking of suicide to ask for help. This training can be taken by those aged 16 and over so anyone can learn how to have a potentially life-saving conversation.

The training can be stopped at any time should anyone decide it isn’t for them. This is not a classroom-based session but a flexible one where individuals can come along when it is convenient for them and start the session when they are confident and complete at their own pace whilst being supported by an online coach or one of the Vulnerable People Team members.

For more information about the ZSA suicide prevention training being held in Doncaster please email:

You can find out more about the ZSA training at:

Further information

For more details on mental health services in Doncaster visit our Good mental health page.

If you need any further information about the work we are doing to promote positive mental health and wellbeing and prevent suicides in Doncaster, please email:

Last updated: 07 February 2024 15:58:41

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