The Rosses, our Supported Housing Scheme located in the North West, is backing the ‘Empty Chair’ initiative and wants to encourage other groups in the local area to get involved.
On Sunday 10th September 2017 ‘empty chairs’ will be placed at various locations throughout the City. This follows on from last year when a large ‘empty chair’ was displayed in the Guildhall Square in Derry. Over 1500 people were reached during the event last year, and a man in distress was brought to safety from the River Foyle. As well as the chairs placed around the city by Inspire Mental Health and Time 2 Choose Mindcrafts, many other groups and individuals from throughout Derry and further afield, even as far as New York, got involved and displayed an empty chair to show their support for this initiative.
The genesis of the empty chair is that people often have a favourite chair at home where they usually sit. Following the loss of a loved one, a poignant reminder of the loss is their empty chair. The empty chair in the Guildhall Square and in different areas of the city are significant for a number of reasons; they are in memory of those who have lost their lives to suicide, they are to remind those who have lost friends and loved ones to suicide that they are being remembered and to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing.
Key figures published by the International Association for Suicide Prevention show that each year over 800,000 people die from suicide; this roughly corresponds to one death every 40 seconds. 
In Northern Ireland in 2015 there were 318 lives lost to suicide, the highest annual death toll since records began in 1970. This was a 19% increase on the suicides recorded in 2014.
Further to this it is estimated that for each adult who died of suicide there were over 25 others who made suicide attempts. As World Suicide Prevention Day approaches, the ‘empty chair’ initiative aims to highlight to people who are despairing and thinking about suicide to know that there is help available. Stigma can be a barrier to people seeking help, but it is essential that people seek help. Speaking to a friend, family member or your GP can help people begin their recovery journey.
Speaking in the run up to World Suicide Prevention Day, Feargal Mellon from Inspire Mental Health’s local service The Rosses said: ‘It is important for people to know that support is available. We need to encourage people to talk about mental health in order to break down the stigma surrounding it. When people think about mental health they often shy away from the subject. We need to start having a conversation about mental health and wellbeing and it can start with three simple words: How are you?’
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