AROUND the world, someone dies every 40 seconds because of suicide – and close to 600 people have taken their own lives in East Lancashire over the last decade. SOPHIE-MAY CLARKE reports.

LAST week, coroner James Newman issued a heartfelt plea for young men to talk out about their mental health after concluding that yet another life had been lost to suicide.

He had just completed the inquest into the death of Nathan Dragsta, a popular fitness fanatic from Accrington, who was found hanged by a dog walker in Fox Hill Bank Nature Reserve in June.

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Urging young people to seek help, the experienced East Lancashire Coroner said he ‘once again’ found himself in a position where he was talking about the death of a 21-year-old man.

Earlier on in the year, the coroner had issued a similar message following the death of 32-year-old Neil Jex from Blackburn.

Speaking at his inquest, Mr Newman pleaded for young men to talk to family or health care professionals in order to revert what he described as ‘one of the biggest killers of young men in our time.’

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Now, the Lancashire Telegraph can publish that since 2008, 594 people have lost their lives to suicide in East Lancashire.

The same number of inquests have taken place, the same number of coroner’s warnings have been issued, and the same number of families have been left devastated by the loss of their loved one, who for one reason or another, decided they couldn’t go on living in this world.

Nationally, suicide rates are at an all time high, and the picture is no different in some of the Lancashire’s towns and boroughs.

And while numbers are on the decrease in places such as Blackburn, which has seen a drop in numbers consecutively for the past four years, other areas such as Pendle and Rossendale are recording record highs.

Suicide among men has been an increasing concern for decades, with organisations such as The Samaritans saying men are three times more likely to take their own lives as women.

One person who has fought tirelessly to ensure suicide becomes a more openly talked about and addressed matter is Tony Harrison.

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The 62-year-old from Darwen has been an advocate on the subject ever since his only daughter, Victoria, took her own life in 2010.

A trustee of national charity Papyrus, Mr Harrison last year created the concept of a 40 second silence, to signify the fact that in their ‘eleventh hour’ one person dies of suicide around the world every 40 seconds.

A multi-faith service will take place at Blackburn Cathedral on Tuesday at 10.55am followed by a procession to the town hall where the vigil will begin from 11.30am.

A 40-second silence has also been organised by Lancashire County Council.

Speaking to The Lancashire Telegraph, Mr Harrison said: “World Suicide Prevention Day is about everyone. All ages and genders.

“The main focus of this is awareness of suicide - it is a major thing for us to be able to show residents that we are not standing still on this.

“We want to show people all of the different organisations that are available if they need help - that’s not just people at crisis point, that’s for all people.”

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Retired civil engineer Mr Harrison said there is still a long way to go when it comes to opening up about suicide, but acknowledged that as a society, we are talking about it more and more.

He said: “It is still the darkest of taboos - the stigma is still a major hindrance in suicide prevention - and it stops people talking about it. That is a big issue and one we need to tackle. While we have stigma we will have suicides.”

And despite crippling budget cuts to public services up and down the country, Lancashire’s charities, health boards and local authorities are adamant they are doing more now than ever before to combat suicide.

The East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group has invested nearly £3million in social prescribing - a service which offers people social and community based non medial support for problems such as anxiety, loneliness and depression.

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To date the scheme, which is a partnership with Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale, and Hyndburn and Ribble Valley CVS, has helped more than 10,000 individuals.

Dr Rakesh Sharma, Hyndburn GP and the GP lead for mental health in Pennine Lancashire said: “Unfortunately suicide particularly in the younger age groups, and middle aged males is increasing. Suicide is preventable. It is best to talk to someone you can trust or feel comfortable talking to.

“They say that a problem shared, is a problem halved and that is why talking about what’s on your mind can be so hopeful. Sometimes just talking to others can put things into perspective and help make them more manageable.

"If you know of someone who you think is feeling suicidal, a good tip is to see if you can encourage them to talk to you or someone else they trust – or the Samaritans. Most importantly listen to them, show you care, and be patient. Let them know you are there for them. In East Lancashire we have some great groups like Mens Den Colne, or Natter Shack which is in Burnley and around East Lancashire. You can find them on Facebook or online.”

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Health professionals from Lancashire Care are also encouraging people experiencing difficulties with their mental health to get in touch for support.

“When people are feeling low or experiencing mental health issues, it can be a very lonely time. It is important that people around them are able to start a conversation, even simply asking how they are doing and really listening can help to reduce that feeling of loneliness and help someone to open up.

“The Wellbeing and Mental Health Helpline provides a listening ear for people who are concerned about a loved one’s mental health, as well as for people who are experiencing low mood. We also provide a listening service to support people’s general wellbeing. We recognise that it can be tough to take that first step however we want people to know they are not alone! If a caller rings and are having feelings of suicide, then we will intervene and get appropriate help.”


A MOTHER has spoken out about her wish to raise awareness of mental health issues following the death of her son.

A coroner ruled Alex Rogahn’s death a suicide in May after the 23-year-old from Burnley took an intentional drug overdose. Now, his mother Jenny Ashton has set up a memorial page in honour of her son, and is fundraising to support local charity, Positive Action in the Community.

Mrs Ashton said: “My whole grief journey has been about being thankful for what Alex gave us, to turn a situation into one that gives us hope. To honour his memory I have set up a memorial fund to help train people in mental health first aid, which will be delivered through PAC. With the page, Alex Rogahn Memorial, I hope to offer support and information to those like Alex, who are struggling with their mental health. It is hoped that something good can come of this.”

Visit Alex’s memorial page and fundraiser at

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THERE are hundreds of incredible national and local organisations that work hard to help those who are at their most vulnerable. No matter what time of day, there is always someone available to talk to. Here are just some of the places that you can find help.

* The Samaritans of Blackburn, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley. Contactable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 116 123 for free, from any phone.

* PAPYRUS is an organisation that works to prevent young suicide in the UK. You can contact their hopeline by calling 08000684141 or by texting 07786203697.

* MindsMatter: the Lancashire Care NHS service, MindsMatter, offers access to talking therapies in Lancashire for adults aged 16+. You can self-refer to the service on 01254 226074.

* The Lancashire Care Foundation Trust free helpline. Call 0800 915 4640 for emotional support relating to your own mental health or someone you are concerned about.

* Big White Wall - a non-emergency online mental health community, with a goal of supporting those living with depression and nxiety. Accessible anytime, anywhere. Visit

* The campaign against living miserably, also known as CALM, is leading a movement against male suicide. Visit or call 0800 585 858.

* Heads Together, a mental health initiative spearheaded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, combines a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health with fundraising for a series of innovative new mental health services. Visit their website

* Mind is a national organisation that provides help and support to empower those experiencing mental health problems. You can learn more by visiting, or calling 0300 123 3393.