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Editor opens up on suicide attempt in bid to save lives

Emma Slee newA senior editor has opened up for the first time on a past suicide attempt amid a regional title’s bid to save lives.

Emma Slee, Reach plc’s senior editor for Devon and Cornwall, has spoken out for the first time about an overdose she took as a teenager after putting a suicide note in the pocket of her school uniform.

Emma, who is now 43, has gone public on the incident after Devon Live launched a new suicide prevention campaign.

The Reach-owned website’s ‘Shatter the Silence’ project aims to encourage anyone struggling to reach out and talk about mental health issues they are experiencing, with the hope in turn that the number of people who die by suicide in Devon will decrease.

Present figures suggest 12 people in every 100,000 in the county will die by suicide, compared to the national average of 10.5.

The decision to launch ‘Shatter the Silence’ came in November after Devon Live covered three suicides in a matter of days.

Emma, pictured, wrote in a first-person piece accompanying the campaign’s launch: “When I was 14 I took an overdose before I went to bed. To this day I don’t think I intended to take my own life but it was a cry for help.

“I knew, however, that I could die and I put a suicide note in the pocket of my school uniform shirt, knowing that it would eventually be found.

“Thankfully, I woke up and went downstairs and told my mum. She took me to the nearest community hospital, I had my stomach pumped and was whisked off to North Devon District Hospital for observation.

“My family was in shock. I hadn’t talked to them about what was happening. I hadn’t told them how unhappy I was at school and how I wanted to get away from one pupil in particular who I felt was having an overbearing and unhappy influence on my life. They had no idea what was going on in my head.

“Back then, mental health services were not what they are today. I had one appointment with a psychologist. I told them I was fine and I was sent away. I was not fine. I did not access any other mental health service until I was in my 20s.

“But things did change. Action was taken by a number of parents and my school. And my life took on a different course. I left school and started a traineeship as a journalist.

“I found a purpose and I realised just how easily things could change when you reach out and let people help you.

“I’m now 43, married, the mother of a beautiful daughter and an editor with a journalism career spanning 27 years that I never in my wildest dreams imagined could be possible.”

As part of its campaign, launched last month, Devon Live is running stories and features highlighting how people can get help, as well as sharing case studies of people who have survived suicide attempts.

Speaking to HTFP, Emma said: “We have received an incredible response to the campaign since the launch.

“I’ve been inundated with messages from both colleagues and readers who have shared their experiences of suicide. It’s terrifying how far-reaching this issue is – and yet we still aren’t talking about it enough.

“Unfortunately we continue to report on deaths by suicide every week but we hope that if our campaign content helps just one person, we have achieved something.”