A leading suicide prevention charity has launched a new campaign urging young people to face up to their feelings of desperation and get help.

PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide says a happy, confident smile may mask true feelings of anxiety and fear.

The charity hopes its high-impact campaign will provoke a response among young people and others who are concerned for someone who may be having thoughts of suicide.

Ged Flynn, Chief Executive of PAPYRUS, said: “There is much debate about face masks just now. For some, masks are seen as protective; for others, masks are an obstacle or a barrier.

“Young people often find it difficult to express their emotions, especially when their circumstances change. Lockdown is a good example of how a sudden change can have a huge impact on young people. Staying at home, working or learning in a new environment, having less privacy and having less access to friends, families and colleagues, all mitigate against feeling safe and emotionally well.

“I would urge us all to help young people navigate the new normal and not to wait for them to struggle or suffer. We all need to find new ways of enabling our young people to be themselves, to express themselves, to share their challenges as well as their achievements.

“Children and young people are often grieving, reacting to the losses which come with change. We need to help them learn how to live through these difficult times. PAPYRUS is here to support you and them to enable life, however difficult this can be just now, and ultimately to prevent harm and death.

“There are many hidden faces of despair out there and they need to know there is someone to talk to and that help is available.”

HOPELINEUK is the charity’s confidential helpline service which is staffed by trained professionals. Practical advice and support is available by ringing 0800 068 4141, texting 07860 039967 or by email to pat@papyrus-uk.org.

The artwork for the PAPYRUS campaign was created by the award-winning agency TBWA Manchester. Gary Fawcette, Executive Creative Director, said: “At a time when it has never been more important to wear a mask and particularly when more people than ever are possibly struggling with their mental health, these images will hopefully remind people to keep talking.”

In 2017 PAPYRUS and TBWA collaborated on the award-winning social media campaign #BraveFace, which contained similar messaging around suicide, openness and young people helping one another.

PAPYRUS says these and a number of other hard-hitting campaigns play an important role in supporting young people, engaging and equipping local communities and helping to shape suicide prevention strategies.

“Ged Flynn from PAPYRUS added: “If you are a young person who is struggling and not showing how you really feel, don’t suffer in silence. Please talk to us.

“If you are a parent who is worried about your child, or you are concerned about someone else who could be thinking of taking their own life, look closely and reach out to them before it’s too late.”

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. PAPYRUS aims to reduce the number of young people who take their own lives by breaking down the stigma around suicide and equipping people with the skills to recognise and respond to suicidal behaviour.

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