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Last Updated: Monday, 28 January 2008, 06:53 GMT
Suicide training call for schools
[Top, L-R) Dale Crole, Gareth Morgan, Liam Clarke, David Dilling; [Bottom, L-R) Thomas Davies, Zachary Barnes, Natasha Randall
Seven of the 13 to have died in the Bridgend area over the last year
Schools have been urged to train teachers in suicide awareness after a recent spate of deaths among young people in one area of south Wales.

Mental health charity Mind said school support would be a "huge step forward".

Police are reviewing a number of cases after 13 suicides among people under 26 in the Bridgend area in a year.

Suicide is the highest cause of death among young Welsh men, and Alan Briscoe of Mind Cymru said each such death in Bridgend raised the "sense of despair".

On 17 January, Natasha Randall, 17, of Blaengarw, near Bridgend, was the latest young person found hanged.

If they know other young people who are dying by suicide it can increase the risk that they too will see suicide as a way out
Alan Briscoe, Mind Cymru

Several other young people who have died in the area knew each other.

They include Leigh Jenkins, 22, who was found hanged two months after his best friend and neighbour Alan Price, 21, died in the same way.

Another was 20-year-old Thomas Davies from North Cornelly, who hanged himself in February 2007.

He was friends with David Dilling, 19, and Dale Crole, 18, who had been found dead weeks earlier.

"Young people who are troubled often find it difficult to ask for help, and if they know other young people who are dying by suicide it can increase the risk that they too will see suicide as a way out," said Mr Briscoe.

"Each of these deaths will have a devastating effect not just on families and friends but also on communities."

Mr Briscoe said more needed to be done to recognise the signs of suicidal thoughts, particularly with vulnerable adolescents.

Depressed woman (posed by model)
Only one in five young people talks to a GP if feeling suicidal

The Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) programme is offered by the charity throughout Wales with support from the Welsh Assembly Government.

"The aim is to train as many people as possible to be able to recognise someone who is suicidal and give them the skills and confidence to intervene," Mr Briscoe added.

"This includes all who work in a helping capacity and who can act as 'gatekeepers' to recognise those who will need help to stay safe."

The project has trained over 400 people from more than 60 different organisations in Wales during the last year.

It was developed in Canada in 1983 and widely used there and the US, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, the Irish Republic and Norway.

A course will be running shortly in Bridgend which the charity said would make a significant contribution to the skills of local professionals who had been touched by the recent suicides in the area.

"If every school in Wales trained just one teacher or school nurse in suicide awareness that would be a huge step forward," Mr Briscoe said.

"Only one in five young people in Wales talk to their GP if they are feeling suicidal."

"Training people in first aid is taken for granted, yet the skills offered through ASIST can be mastered by anyone - ASIST is suicide first aid, focused on immediate safety," he added.



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