TALKING openly about feelings can help stop suicides, according to a prevention expert in the Wee County.

The message comes with Suicide Prevention Week in full swing, with hopes greater collaboration and awareness can save families, friends and communities from the devastating effects.

Six people in Clackmannanshire took their own lives last year and suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50, according to NHS Forth Valley.

The week's theme, Working Together to Prevent Suicide, acknowledges a public health approach is required to drive figures down and people are being asked to be alert to the warning signs in people close to them.

Yesterday, a stall was set up at the Forth Valley College campus in Alloa to reach out to students, as work continues across the county.

Jim Robb, suicide prevention lead in the Clackmannanshire and Stirling Health and Social Care Partnership, said: "If someone you are close to shows signs of not being themselves, you will normally notice.

"When changes in their behaviour begin to worry you – even if the signs come and go – the most important aspect is to ask them about it.

"Talking openly about their feelings can help a person get clarity about what is troubling them.

"Starting this conversation helps them gain a perspective on their distress.

"You don't need to have a solution to their problem; being there for them and listening, without judgement, shows that you care and their distress, and ultimately their happiness, is important to you."

During the awareness week last year, people gathered at a small event in Alloa heard how the thought of suicide, even if for a fleeting moment, occurs naturally when people are facing a difficult time in their life, but most will reject the idea.

It was highlighted that people do not want to die, they just want their problems to go away and in a small but significant number of cases, suicide seems to be the only resolution.

Jim added: "Ask if they are thinking about suicide.

"It won't put the thought into their head if it wasn't there before, but it can be a big relief for them to be able to open up fully and acknowledge they need help and support.

"By taking the time to show you care and are there to listen, you could change their life."

Males looking for a group of like-minded people to talk to should head along to the Men's Cave at the Indodrill Stadium tomorrow (Thursday, September 12) from 9pm or any week at the same time.

Stirling City Radio will also host a discussion on the topic of prevention next Wednesday, September 18.

The Neil's Hugs Foundation, which supports people bereaved by suicide, is also set to host a memorial service at the end of the month with more details to come.

Anyone looking to speak to someone urgently should call the Samaritans on 116 123 or Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87.