WORLD mental health is back in focus for Suicide Prevention Week (September 9-15th).

NHS Borders and a new support group for men are calling for greater awareness of mental health issues and encouraging the public to talk more openly about their feelings.

On average, in Scotland two people die every day by suicide. Scotland's Suicide Prevention Action Plan has promised to reduce Scotland's suicide rate by 20% by 2022.

It's the leading cause of death for men under the age of 50. In 2018 suicide related deaths rose by over 11%, with 75% of all suicides being men.

This is why groups like Peer 2 Peer Mindfulness' men's group, and the work they do is so vital. The group is a safe space for men to talk about their mental health problems openly, facing no stigma. The group was created after men who had been struggling themselves were supported by talking and mindfulness through Peer 2 Peer Mindfulness.

Like everyone else, men experience mental health problems for a variety of reasons, but the expectations of men not expressing their emotions comes with enormous risk. Not talking is part of the problem.

One of the group's members explained: "I felt a certain stigma that was attached to me being a man that I couldn’t do what was needed by myself. The more issues I had to deal with the more I became detached from humanity. The more I became detached from humanity the closer I got to loneliness, despair and overwhelmed with negative, damaging emotions."

Suicide is a taboo subject so doesn't get discussed often. But this is where further issues grow. Feeling comfortable enough to ask someone how they are doing, and even asking if they feel suicidal can be the first step to helping someone seek the help they need.

Associate Director of Public Health at NHS Borders, Allyson McCollam told us: "It’s important that if you have the slightest inclination that someone you know might be having thoughts of suicide, you ask them about it. Asking someone isn’t going to put the thought of suicide in their head if it wasn’t there before; and if it was, they’ll probably be relieved that you’ve offered them a chance to talk about it. Suicide can affect anyone and it’s not a subject that should be hidden.

"Talking can help a person understand what’s troubling them, and often gives a sense of perspective. Starting a conversation is half the battle. If you suspect someone may be feeling suicidal, ask them – it could save their life."

According to the Mental Health Foundation, men in England make up only 36% of referrals to Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies and in Scotland it was found that around 25% of all people with common mental health problems received some form of treatment.

Another member of the men's group revealed to us: "I would encourage all men who find themselves feeling this way to talk. It's hugely important to offer that helping hand to guide someone back to health. To be able to once again see life and love, outside the blinkers of isolation suicidal thoughts give us. And I've found a way, through Mindfulness, of managing the random and intrusive thoughts that still haunted me before then.”

The group make it very clear to members that they aren't a substitute for professional support but encourage all to find what works for them to better their mental health.

Peer 2 Peer Mindfulness are based in Kelso and run mindfulness workshops for any who wish to join.

If you or someone you know is experiencing poor mental health or suicidal thoughts, please contact Samaritans on their 24-hour line at 116 1123 or Breathing Space on 0800 838587, open 24-hours on weekends and 6pm-2am on weekdays.