HOW to help someone with mental health problems should be taught in the same way people are trained to save lives through CPR.

That's the plea from health campaigner and GP Dr Zahid Chauhan who called for a change in culture when it comes to mental health on World Suicide Prevention Day, which took place this week.

Dr Chauhan, who is a non-executive director of the out-of-hours GP service in Bolton and also instrumental in helping homeless people in the borough access medical treatment, is now challenging society to view illnesses of the mind in the same way they would physical ailments.

Figures released earlier this week show that rates of male suicide are at a 30 year-low ­— but Dr Chauhan remains particularly concerned that men, particularly aged between 45-50, are remaining silent on the triggers that lead to tragedy. He said that a study released in August showed that men working in construction, for example, were three times more likely to take their own life.

Dr Chauhan said: "Conditions such as clinical depression are as serious and life-threatening as cancer. We must remove the stigma around psychological problems, so that we can intervene early – and improve and save lives.

"We have to get away from the notion that talking about emotional problems is any way weak or unnecessary and we also have to be more aware of how some men feel excluded, isolated and unable to talk to anyone.

"Suicide remains the biggest killer of men under 45. If that condition had been cancer or heart disease we would be leaping in to do something about it. Busting taboos around mental health and learning the basics of counselling would at least be a healthy start."

Dr Chauhan wants people to be trained in listening and spotting the signs of severe mental illness.

A passionate campaigner for heart resuscitation techniques ­— CPR ­— to be taught in school, Dr Chauhan now wants an army of volunteers to learn: how to listen in a non-judgemental way to someone experiencing mental health issues, where to refer someone who is anxious, depressed and even suicidal and, how to spot the signs of mental health illness – from self-harm scars to lethargy and eating disorders.

Dr Chauhan said: "I believe that poor mental health is one of the biggest problems facing our society today aside from being distressing and debilitating, it is the cause of many physical health problems, spurring on alcohol addiction, comfort eating and smoking and creating sedentary, hope-less life styles.

"As medics we examine why a heart attack has happened and how changes in diet and exercise can benefit. Why then don’t we get to the root of why a person has attempted to take their life?”