Black Lives Matter

Reaching a milestone

The Waiting Room (TWR) Team are proud to present a milestone in community engagement.

In the last twelve months TWR have had over 100,000 visits to the website by Birmingham and Solihull communities. The smart online directory has offered support to professionals and the citizens within our communities across Birmingham and Solihull. It has played an especially important role since the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown in March.


TWR has continued to roll out the information in as many ways as possible to ensure accessibility to support services at such a crucial time. This includes:

  • The Waiting Room Apps being launched and promoted since September 2019 on Google Play and Apple App Store
     
  • More than 20,000 instant access key fobs across all GP practices in Birmingham and Solihull
     
  • 7,500 key fobs rolled out through Birmingham Public Health within the emergency packs
     
  • 400 scannable posters for public areas.

Alongside this we have promoted the importance of accessing support utilising key Public Health messages related to the pandemic both through short information videos and the development of the Covid-19 Support Section at TWR.

This achievement would not have been possible without the ongoing collaboration and support of our wider partners including Birmingham City Council Public Health and Adult Safeguarding Team, Birmingham and Solihull NHS CCG,  our GP’s, Universities, locals schools and our third sector colleagues to name a few.

The TWR mugs, stickers, posters and pens all has usable features and can also be scanned to take you straight to The Waiting Room website for direct support

Common-Unity and the Excellence in Third Sector Award

Screenshot from the online awards ceremony

Early in 2020 we were excited to be told that we had been shortlisted for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce Award “Excellence in The Third Sector.” This nomination was alongside 7 other local organisations who provide essential community support across our region. The other nominees were:

  • Black Country Living Museum
  • Breast Cancer Haven, West Midlands
  • Family Society Adoption Focus
  • Gro-Organic CIC
  • Millennium Point Charitable Trust
  • Suited for Success
  • University Hospitals Birmingham Charity

Recognition

Common Unity were shortlisted with recognition of over a decade of hard work in supporting communities to engage with their own health and wellbeing.

Particular programmes of work were highlighted including our Suicide Prevention work with the development of the SCHEMA Suicide Prevention Training Programme, our Male Peer Support Programme known as ManMade and our hugely successful online directory of health and wellbeing services known as The Waiting Room.

The Awards Night

With the pandemic hitting hard in April, the event was moved online for broadcast in July. The event witnessed over 1,500 viewers with the event trending 3rd in the whole of the UK on social media during broadcast due to the diligent work of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce to make best of a challenging situation.

Thank-you

On the night we didn’t win the award but are still hugely thankful for the experience and very humbled to have been nominated for the Chamber Award in this area.

None of this would have been possible without the hard work of our Associates and supporters over the years including Forward For Life, Cruse Bereavement Care Birmingham, Public Health Birmingham, Birmingham and Solihull CCG, Birmingham City University (well done on your award by the way!) and many more.

Get in touch

If you want to engage with us and hear more about the work we do and how we could link with yourselves please don’t hesitate to get in touch

Challenging times require a proactive approach

We are in unprecedented times and facing uncertainty as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to affect our daily lives. We want to assure you that Common Unity is fully committed to the safety and health of our communities.

During this period we all need to be there for each other even more so than usual which is somewhat ironic as the lockdown means that for many people they are finding the experience of life with little or no contact a real challenge to cope with.

But there are opportunities especially through the links we have online.

For overall Health & Wellbeing service information there is The Waiting Room (TWR) . Although many of the services are struggling regarding staffing numbers available and the amount of support they can practically put in place they are still providing as much support as they can personally, online, via text and the telephone. 

TWR also provides you with links to Birmingham and Solihull local NHS website which gives advice to the public around this challenge as well as links to all the national websites provided by the NHS and the Government. TWR also provides you with directories to all GP surgeries across Birmingham and Solihull.

We are also conscious that even after all of this is over the longer term impact and issue of loss will remain with many of us for years to come so TWR has also included within its listed services access to the national Cruse Bereavement website which provides crucial advice as to how best be supported through these difficult times.

Another key thing to look after is our own wellbeing – The NHS backed Every Mind Matters website provides loads of tips to improve your mental wellbeing. Looking after yourself is priority during these challenging times, after all, we need to be as well as we can so we can continue to help and support those around us that we love. We have added this link to TWR but you can also read it HERE

During this period of lockdown there are also rising concerns in respect of there being an increased risk of domestic abuse. We have added the Governments advice and guidance page to TWR but there are a number of superb services in Birmingham and Solihull that support people at risk of, or experiencing domestic abuse including RSVP and Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid. There are also a range of Helplines listed in TWR because as we all know, it’s good to talk. Organisations include Samaritans, Calm and for those under 25, The Mix helpline. 

We also have listed Foodbanks in Birmingham and Solihull as currently there are many who are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet as well as the National Debtline link that many community members might find useful which includes the Webchat option.

Don’t forget, there are loads of other areas including Mental Health, Virtual Support, Therapeutic Support and more besides that you can tap into from home.

If there are any services that you are aware of that have recently popped up to support Birmingham and Solihull citizens and it is not on TWR, please do not hesitate in letting us know either by clicking on ‘add a service’ at TWR or emailing us directly at [email protected].

Common Unity and the Waiting Room team will be highlighting other relevant and useful services over the coming weeks that may be able to support you, your family and friends. In the meantime, look after your wellbeing and please keep yourself safe.

Best Caron x

ManMade | The Conference

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We hope you have your ticket ready for Man Made the Conference June 13th 2016! with just 4 days to go, there are very limited spaces available and now tickets are sold on a first come first serve bases. For those of you who haven’t booked yet, or are maybe new to ManMade…here is a little information for you.

ManMade: The Conference // This is a Man’s World?
We know that suicide does not discriminate. It impacts across the board, on all walks of life at all levels in modern day society. But still… statistically…men account for over 75% of all completed suicides in England.

With Keynote Speakers including Jonny Benjamin, Rohan Kallicharan and Chief Inspector Sean Russell as well as a variety of workshops being delivered by leaders in their field, ManMade The Conference is a unique opportunity to consider ways forward to hit the devastating issue of suicide amongst men head on. 

If you have booked your place(s) that’s fantastic! We cant wait to see you at ManMade | The Conference Men Surviving Change in an ever Changing World June 13th 2016 click here to go to manmade.org.uk
However, if you haven’t booked and want to come, please be aware that it’s not long to go and there are very limited places remaining,

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give Terry Rigby a call on 07585776800 or email him at [email protected]

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Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. Every two hours, a man takes his life in the UK.

ManMade | The Conference throws on the table an invitation to meet this challenge head on with personal stories and new approaches being highlighted to help men survive.

ManMade | THE CONFERENCE

“men surviving change in an ever changing world”

Has renowned keynote speakers: Jonny Benjamin, Cadi Lambert, Rohan Kallicharan, Jamie Harrington and Sean Russell

Manmade.org.uk | twitter: @ukManMade | #ukmanmade

As ManMade was first piloted in Dudley through support of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Councils Office of Public Health, it seems only fitting that the first ManMade conference be set at Himley Hall, a 17th Century Manor House set within 180 acres of parkland within the Borough of Dudley.

ManMade // Pete Trainor

It’s been a week since ManMade | The Conference at Himley Hall nr. Dudley there’s been a lot to think about. I was fortunate enough to spend time with the other speakers on the lead up to the conference and each one them, along with all the organisers, are inspirational, brave and fighting this epidemic in their own way. All of them are helping to make it easier for men to find help without shame or stigma. It feels like we’re just at the tip of the iceberg on this one too.

If over a third of local authorities do not collect information about suicide, and do not have a suicide prevention action plans, or a multi-agency suicide prevention groups, then the issue is going to need to be tackled outside of the system.

As I explained on Monday 13th June to all the delegates, I’m fighting the problem with the gifts that I’ve been given — technology, design, psychology & a passion to disrupt traditional problems with unconventional methods. I’m also a man, so I know full well how tough it can be to carry on in this ever-changing world. I’m a fairly typical bloke about a lot of things and have had many a “crisis of masculinity” in which I failed to seek help even when catastrophic events hit my life. It could have led to tragic consequences for my families and I’m thankful it didn’t. I’m one of the lucky ones.   I’ve worked in technology for 20 years now and have been fortunate enough to work all over the world, with the biggest tech companies on the planet. When we set the business up several years ago, we vowed to use all the technological knowhow we’d accumulated and all the emerging technology we’re exploring with our clients, to actually do some good for society. We could build you a behavioural analytics platform that tracks browsing behaviour to sell people better products, or we could use exactly the same technology and build a platform that helps people with more human issues.

The rising suicide rates among men should be treated as a national public health issue on a par with smoking, obesity or pollution and yet the government does so little to support the amazing organisations tackling the problem. So I figured — maybe we could have a crack at helping there.

A large portion of men never talk to anyone about their problems, variously because they feel ashamed, do not want to discuss feelings or simply don’t “want to make a fuss”. What if we could give these men something they are happy to talk about? There’s a generation of men whose adult lives have been marked by major social changes affecting the workplace and family. They’re in pain.

They don’t have a way of offloading all that stress and inner turmoil that speaking so often releases. Maybe technology can help them to talk?   In the technology world we recently hit an inflection point that’s going to give us a huge opportunity to do what I always dreamed we could do — help vulnerable people, even before they know they need help. Artificial intelligence, which has always been the subject of science fiction, is now mature enough to handle some of the most complex challenges. Perhaps even the kinds of human challenges that traditionally a trained professional would be relied upon to handle. Now, that statement might sound controversial, but I just want to point out that we have to train a machine to learn in much the same way that a human needs to train to be a fully qualified professional.

So we can really get a machine on par, if not smarter than a human on any given subject. The real challenge comes with empathy  — because surely that’s a trait that only humans can learn, right? To a degree yes, but we now have such sophisticated emotional and sentiment analytics software at our disposal, that we can generate dialogues between a human and a machine that are so intelligent and delivered in such an elegant style, that they become almost as good, if not better than the real thing. It’s worth also keeping in mind that artificial intelligence doesn’t sleep, it doesn’t eat, it can’t make mistakes or have a bad day and it can service tens, hundreds, thousands, even unlimited numbers of people simultaneously.

The implications, although uncomfortable to some, are profound and game changing for others.

In my talk at ManMade I covered the three types of artificial intelligence, from narrow (basic decision support tools) to general (services like Siri) through to super intelligence (cognitive intelligence) which is already used by a lot of companies to sell us more products or monitor our patterns in order to market to us in a more tailored way and all this is going on while suicide, like a virus we don’t fully understand, is killing men in record numbers. It kills three times as many British men as women, although nothing has ever adequately explained why. While almost all other leading causes of death are being slowly eroded by medical and social progress, deaths caused by suicide are at their highest for decades.

So it seems such an incredible waste not to use these wonderful, powerful technological advancements on tackling the bigger issues, rather than trying to sell more shiny things to people.   Let’s just imagine a man who is lonely, introverted with difficulties expressing his feelings. He’s unhappy because of his impending divorce from his childhood sweetheart. He’s connected to his phone almost constantly because the void created by his loneliness is filled with hours browsing the internet, reading news (which is usually contributing to the unhappiness!) being on social media and so on.

What if I could give that man a talking operating system with artificial intelligence, designed to adapt and evolve like a human being. He can choose the gender and personality of this operating system and it will adapt very quickly to the individual just by listening to his voice bio-metrics, by reading all the environmental and other data factors from that smart phone. It can’t judge him because it’s not programmed to judge — just support. The artificial intelligence has the ability to learn and grow psychologically, and bond with the man over discussions about past times, life events and maybe even eventually learn to talk to the man about the factors that make him so lonely and unhappy. It’s Socratic, so it asks a lot of questions and he’s happy to talk, because he knows he’s not being judged. It’s literally ‘artificial’ and ‘intelligent’.

It might sound like science fiction, it might also sound a little sad to some people who think our reliance on technology is already eroding some of our humanity, but I see the opposite — an opportunity to give some vulnerable people back something missing.

I get the impression that we still think that the type of men who will die by suicide are the unwell, the disturbed, the unlucky; the ones who stumble at life’s biggest hurdles and are too weak to get back up. But in reality 75 per cent of people who take their own lives have either never been diagnosed with a mental health problem or been in touch with mental health services in the previous year and only five per cent of people who do suffer from depression go on to take their own lives — they’re what society would deem to be normal. But they still need someone to ask them how they are everyday. Someone to talk with, someone to analyse behaviour in intimate detail and provide help, wisdom, and guidance and potentially even warn a family member, friend or professional if it is felt that the man is a danger to himself.

When asked what counts as emotional support, many men do not describe relationships based primarily on ‘talking about feelings.’ What we count as support is ‘being there’, ‘being alongside’ and understanding based on personal experience, or knowledge of the person, and being reachable if needed. We can do that with technology in so many ways.

Let start to conclude by telling you about an experiment we recently conducted with 200 male volunteers who were studied using a chatbot we’d built that asked men questions about how they felt about life. On the back of the chatbot was a powerful sentiment analysis tool to track how the men responded. We told half of them the chatbot was being controlled by a person (“like a puppet”), while the other half were told it was computer-controlled (“fully-automated”) and there was no human on the other end.

The volunteers who thought they were talking to a computer tended to engage in less “impression management” and also displayed emotions like sadness more intensely they also said they felt less afraid to disclose personal details about themselves than those who talked with the supposedly human-controlled program. Who says the machines aren’t as valuable as people?   At Nexus we want to build a future where stretched, professional people are augmented by smart, accessible, beautiful technology. We believe the future of supporting men of all ages, in an ever changing world, is predictive, reactive, artificial intelligent support and lies between two important things: anonymity and rapport.

We’re not trying to diminish the role of the professional in this battle against suicide; we’re trying to take up some of the slack. If this kind of approach, using technology like artificial intelligence, is enough to keep somebody vulnerable talking in the black spot between an alert and a response from a community mental health team or the police? Is that itself not worth exploring? I vote yes.


About Pete Trainor & Nexus   Pete Trainor is a behavioural designer, mental health campaigner, accidental polymath and founder of Nexus, The Human Centred Design Company. He talks all over the world on creative & social technologies & the physiological & psychological effects on their audiences. Pete regularly appears in UK national and international press as an analyst on mental health, digital media, creative industries, emergent technologies, and tech markets. He has a very simple mantra for the business: Don’t do things better, do better things.   @petetrainor / @nexushcd / www.nexus.design


ManMade|The Conference was organised by Midlands-based social enterprises Forward for Life and Common Unity. Together, they conceptualised, designed and delivered ManMade, an innovative peer-led support service aimed at reducing male suicide. Initially piloted and recommissioned in the Midlands, the developers of ManMade are looking to establish it as an approach further afield. Terry Rigby – Co-Founder of ManMade @ukManMade // @forwardFORlife  // www.manmade.org.uk e. [email protected] t. 07585776800


If you are having thoughts of suicide or concerned about someone else please go to The Urbrum Waiting Room Or contact – Samaritans // Listening service – 24 hours a day, any day – CALL 116 123 (UK, ROI) // EMAIL [email protected] CALM // Suicide Prevention support for Men (5pm – Midnight) CALL 0800 58 58 58 // SMS (text messsage) 07537 404717

Birmingham charity scoops award for work to tackle suicide

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After receiving the first Suicide Safer Community Award presented by Forward For Life and Common Unity, Trident Reach the Peoples Charity launched its own press release on the 23rd December 2013 (see below). The press release highlights the benfits to its customers of a combined approach to suicide prevention.

To read more about the Combined Approach to promoting Suicide Safer Communities please click here.

A charity which is working to save lives by tackling suicide rates in Birmingham has scooped the first award of its kind in recognition of its efforts. Trident Reach the People Charity, based in Birmingham, supports vulnerable people across the Midlands, including the homeless and people with mental health problems.

Bosses have been presented with the Suicide Safer Community Award, a new accolade presented by the Forward For Life and Common Unity Social Enterprise. They received the award at a presentation at Trident Reach’s Washington Court homeless scheme in Birmingham last week (18th December).

The award recognises a number of life-saving initiatives at Trident Reach aimed at reducing suicides among its customers and the wider community. It has been heavily involved in the development of a new Birmingham Suicide Prevention Strategy and action plan to reduce the incidence of suicidal behaviour across the city.

Charity staff have been trained in suicide ‘first aid’ by undertaking an ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) course. The two-day skills-building workshop prepares care professionals and volunteers so they can help people having suicidal thoughts. Staff have also received safeTALK training – a half-day course covering practical steps to help someone who is thinking of taking their own life.

Anthony McCool, Charity Lead at Trident Reach, said: “We are proud to receive this inaugural award for such life-saving and life-changing work.

“Christmas is traditionally a time of festivities and merrymaking but, for many people, it can be a time of great emotional stress. Some people will get depressed and wonder if they can carry on any more.

“But Trident Reach is dedicated to helping the most vulnerable people in our society and, through the ASIST and safeTALK training, we have helped equip our staff with the skills to ease the burden on people who feel that they have nothing more to live for.”

Terry Rigby, Company Director at Forward For Life, said: “Trident Reach is leading the way in its work to save lives by having the necessary skills to best reach out to people when they are at their lowest ebb.”

Caron Thompson, Company Director at Common Unity, said: “It is only fitting that Trident Reach, because of the charity’s dedication to the suicide prevention agenda, should be the first to receive our Suicide Safer Community Award.”

Birmingham-based Common Unity and Forward For Life are leading the way across the West Midlands and further afield in offering the internationally recognised safeTALK and ASIST courses as a joint approach to establishing ‘Suicide Safer Communities’. They bring with them nearly 40 years of expertise and specialist knowledge in the fields of suicide prevention and mental health.

Trident Reach provides housing, care and support services to vulnerable people with a range of needs across the Midlands region, including homeless people, those with disabilities or mental health problems, the elderly and people fleeing domestic abuse.

Ref: Published by Kerri Smith for Reach the People Charity

The SOS Award

Trident Reach receives SOS Award

Organisations that go that extra mile to prevent suicide should be recognised. Suicide Prevention is an area that we feel should be highest priority across our communities and the health and social care sector at all levels. We also feel that when an organisation has gone that extra mile to help communities become Suicide Safer, such an organisation should be recognised for its hard work and dedication to reducing suicidal behaviours.

On the 18th December 2013, the Chief Executive of Trident Reach the People Charity was presented with the very first SOS Suicide Safer Community Award by Common Unity Social Enterprise and our suicide prevention partner organisation, Forward For Life.

The award was given in recognition of the fact that Trident Reach has actively embraced the suicide prevention agenda at an operational level and strategic level both within their own organisation through staff engagement with safeTALK and ASIST courses and through being an active member of the Birmingham SOS Strategic Think Tank which is currently developing a suicide prevention strategy to be tabled in Birmingham next year.

A Combined Approach to realising Suicide Safer Communities

At Common Unity and Forward for Life we believe there is one solution we can promote alongside the SOS programme in realising Suicide Safer Communities and it’s a very simple one. The safeTALK course can train up to 30 people in half a day – this training serves as gatekeeper to individuals who are considering suicide. We believe that through greater engagement in safeTALK at an organisational and community level, people can be directed to the appropriate support with the outcome of saving a life.

The challenge is this – safeTALK trained individuals are expected to refer people at risk of suicide to ready, willing and able individuals who can implement Suicide First Aid Support (ASIST) through an agreed safety plan – however, organisations who have staff trained in ASIST are limited in number across the region and therefore continued support could be compromised due to a lack of ready access to ASIST trained individuals.

Our Combined Approach

sees a way through this via brokering agreements with a range of stakeholders to sign up to engaging in safeTALK at a proportional level. This will provide the eyes and ears for every organisation to intervene where suicide ideation is a possible consideration. In addition to this, organisations can engage with ASIST – Common Unity and Forward for Life believe that through proportional representation both within organisations and community groups stakeholders will have both the gatekeeping aspect (safeTALK) and the Suicide First Aid (ASIST) embedded.

Common Unity and Forward for Life realise that austerity measures mean that investment in training is difficult to raise. However, with the relatively low costs for implementation of safeTALK and the comparatively low costs of ASIST through our training, the overall financial impact in comparison to the relevant gains is absolutely minimal when we consider that the cost of each and every suicide is in the region of £1,450,000 per death by suicide.

Clarke Carlisle meets Common Unity

Common Unity in association with Forward For Life Launched the SOS Suicide Prevention Campaign in Birmingham on the 1th September 2013 as part of Suicide Prevention Week. Caron Thompson Company Director for Common Unity invited Clarke Carlisle Chairman for the Professional Football Association (PFA) to support the SOS Event as it is a subject that is very close to Clarke.

Clarke is a survivor of suicide, he tried to take his own life in 2001. Since the tragic suicide of Gary Speed in 2011, Clarke Carlisle investigates depression and even suicide in British football and speaks to young players, managers and Gary Speed’s family to find out why footballers are suffering in silence.

The S.O.S event was a success!

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This is a thank you to everybody that attended the SOS Sort Out Suicide event and made it a success, I would also like to give a big thank you to Forward For Life, for hosting the event.

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” G. C. Lichtenberg

The event started with networking and a basic discussion on suicide prevention and how Common Unity and Forward For Life are trying to tackle this problem using ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) by creating Suicide Safer Communities by use of the SOS Campaign (s-o-s.org.uk).

The Presentation

Forward For Life and Common Unity gave a in depth structured approach on how to tackle this issue one step at a time.
The Presentation consisted of:

•   The S-O-S and what it is.
•   The Background and the history.

•   Aims of the Campaign
•   Campaign Event
•   Use of materials
•   Stats
•   Myths and Facts

Why Get Involved?
•   These approaches are Why work with us?
•   Why Common Unity and Forward For Life

The SOS Campaign is a ground-breaking programme that works to prevent suicide through a number of approaches. All aspects of SOS directly challenge the stigma and taboo associated with dying from suicide – a stigma that is all too prevalent in our society both locally and globally. Most importantly, SOS is a grassroots programme that looks to work alongside communities and local service providers to ensure society is Suicide Safer.