A NEW independent organisation has been created to strengthen the support available to people in Cumbria and north Lancashire who have been bereaved by suicide.

Suicide Bereavement Support (SBS) has been created from the former Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) group.

John Brown, chair of the new organisation and founder of the SOBS group, said: “We will continue to operate using the same self-help principle as we have for the past nine years.

"We will still provide the groups in Kendal, Whitehaven and Carlisle, as we do now. The Facebook presence, both the open page and closed group, will continue to function, as will our Twitter account.

“We [the SBS steering group] believe that independent operation will allow us to develop a stronger, more flexible response to the tragic loss of life by local people to suicide," he said. "We can pursue local projects to meet community needs identified during our nine years of experience in the area.”

The new organisation will be free from the constraints of a national organisation and SBS hopes to be able to expand its goals and activities.

Some of these may include suicide prevention as people who have been bereaved by suicide can be at risk of taking their own lives and ensuring people are able to access appropriate counselling, campaigning and research.

“Importantly, we will be able to spend money raised in the region in response to the local need, whilst being held directly accountable for how money is spent," said Mr Brown. "We remain open to working in partnership with national, regional and local groups in the future to best serve those who have been touched by suicide in our locality.”

Colin Cox, Director of Public Health at Cumbria County Council, said: “I very much welcome the establishment of Suicide Bereavement Support.

"Cumbria has a higher rate of suicide than the national average, and every death by suicide has a huge impact on family, friends and the wider community.

“The work that the group has done in the past as SOBS has been invaluable in supporting many people who have been bereaved, and setting themselves up as an independent group will mean that they will be able to support people in new ways that will be even more tailored to local circumstances and needs.

“The volunteers are experts through personal experience and I know that as the group develops further they will continue to be an important part of the Cumbrian approach to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it.”

For further information visit www.sbs.org.uk