TAUNTON residents gathered in the town centre this morning (Saturday, October 8) to join a walk and raise awareness of suicide prevention.

Around 50 people joined the first Walk for a Life in the town event along with Somerset County Council, its partners, and several charities.

It was supported by partners including Somerset Foundation Trust, Open Mental Health, and Stepladder.  

The walk started from the Stragglers Coffee House at the cricket ground, then the group walked through the town.

Some walkers had a free back sign to dedicate their walk to a loved one and paused along the route for moments of reflection.

The walk reached Vivary Park to lay flowers at the 'Afterlife' bench and then ended at the Somerset County Cricket Ground, where a number of local partners and stakeholders were on hand to offer information and advice.

Rachel, from Mind Somerset, said: “We care about what we do. We are trying to merge together and support the difficulties around suicide.

“These events help people to know they are not on their own. The more people we have supporting events like these, the better.

“It is a lonely place when you have lost someone or when you have those feelings yourself.

“The more people come together and share their experiences, the more we are able to create a response.”

Tim Yeandle, lead of Somerset Recovery College said the group promotes outdoor events and other activities, such as yoga, to improve mental well-being.

The Somerset Recovery College is based on the CHIME principle – Connectiveness, hope, identity, meaning, and empowerment.

Tim said: “When you don’t feel so great personally, I think one of the first things people do is isolate and close in.

“But one of the benefits of these events is that they immediately give you confidence and you know there are other people. It’s a sense of togetherness.”

Amy Hardwick, health promotion manager for mental health and wellbeing in public health at Somerset County Council, said: “There’s still quite a stigma surrounding mental health.

“People find it difficult to talk about it.

“This event provides a space to come together and show support for suicide prevention and talk about the help and support available in Somerset.”

Adam Dance, portfolio holder for public health for equality and diversity at Somerset County Council, said: “I think that the benefit for me really is the fact that all the organisations are coming together to show the public we are all working together.

“The public has a perception that services do not interlink. We want to support the community but we also want to be public about mental health and we want to make sure that anyone can access mental health services.

“For me it’s quite a personal thing because when I suffered quite a bit I didn’t know where to go and it's really good to see many services here today to support residents.”

Ross Henley, Somerset County Council associate cabinet member for public health, said: “It is really important to promote awareness, there’s so much that needs to be done about suicide prevention, self-harm prevention, especially since lockdown.

“We need to do all we can to show support. There isn’t anyone who hasn’t been affected by these issues.”

The event also marked the launch of Somerset County Council’s new ‘Orange Button’ scheme: a community-based suicide awareness scheme.

The Orange Button will be worn by people in Somerset who have undergone quality-assured Mental Health or Suicide Prevention training: whilst they are not able to counsel people, they can help signpost to relevant local services.

The event also saw the unveiling of the Somerset ‘Book of Hope’, a digital resource of quotes, lyrics, and words to provide comfort to people in our community in troubling times.

If you would like to contribute, please send your contributions to bookofhope@somerset.gov.uk using the subject “Book of Hope”

If you, or someone you know needs support, there are a number of organisations in Somerset that specialise in support related to suicide and mental health.

Visit www.openmentalhealth.org.uk to discover all the support options that are open to you.

The photo gallery above shows some photos from the event.