The theme of this year's World Suicide Prevention Day, "Creating hope through action", is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and through our actions we can encourage hope and strengthen prevention.
Already, both nationally and locally, positive work is making a difference.
We're expecting the government to publish its refreshed Suicide Prevention Strategy before the end of the year, and the Department of Health and Social Care has already announced it will relaunch a £10m fund for support charities to work with the NHS to provide suicide prevention services.
Meanwhile, all mental health trusts have developed Zero Suicide plans and over 200 trusts are working through the Zero Suicide Alliance, to identify and share best practice on suicide prevention. NHS trusts have done some inspiring work to address this challenging and sensitive issue in the communities they serve.
Trusts are telling us that more needs to be done to tackle suicide. The government's forthcoming Suicide Prevention Strategy is an important opportunity to ensure further progress can be made.Policy Officer (Mental Health)
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (Southern Health) has been looking to better signpost key organisations who offer advice, help and support through its refreshed Life Cards. The Life Cards are credit card sized so can discreetly fit in wallets or phone pouches. Southern Health recognised that people who had been affected by suicide or lost a loved one may not know where to go for help. The cards were co-produced with the help of over 100 people with lived experience, and staff.
Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is working with suicide prevention charity, The Martin Gallier Project, to reach out to people who have attended A&E with suicidal thoughts, attempted to take their own life or called the 24/7 crisis line. Individuals will be assessed by a specialist mental health practitioner and, if appropriate, an experienced suicide prevention specialist will make contact to offer one-to-one support within 24 hours.
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has also worked closely with the voluntary sector through its official charity Heads On, which awarded £220,000 in grants to deliver suicide prevention programmes and community mental health support in local areas. This includes funding to the charity Grassroots to develop and deliver a new suicide prevention training approach for non-clinical staff who work with vulnerable people within the voluntary sector across Sussex.
Nevertheless, trusts are telling us that more needs to be done to tackle suicide. The government's forthcoming Suicide Prevention Strategy is an important opportunity to ensure further progress can be made.
Professor Louis Appleby, professor of psychiatry at the University of Manchester and director of the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health, set out in Autumn 2021 how trusts can manage the ongoing risk of suicide through strengthening services for those most at risk of suicide and its key risk factor, non-fatal self-harm. In addition, he emphasised the need to prioritise access to mental health liaison in emergency departments for anyone in chronic pain, experiencing a mental health crisis or feelings of isolation and/or facing problems with debt.
Trust leaders have identified the need for greater efforts on wider prevention, especially through education and better signposting to local help and support.Policy Officer (Mental Health)
He called on trusts to do all they could to look after their own staff and families bereaved by suicide. In July this year, a group of researchers from the Universities of Surrey, Keele and Birmingham published the first evidence-based postvention guidance specifically to support NHS workers following a colleague's death by suicide.
Trust leaders have identified the need for greater efforts on wider prevention, especially through education and better signposting to local help and support. They have also highlighted the need for initiatives to raise awareness about mental health from school age through to training in the workplace, alongside more investment in helping people build self-care skills. Equally, understanding and analysing population-based trends must have sufficient consideration with better investment in the skills needed.
Proper implementation of these approaches requires funding and support to recruit the staff needed to deliver key measures. It is also essential to involve those affected by suicide to support local systems to develop and implement effective plans for their local populations. Local areas may need to prioritise and focus investment in different ways so flexibility will also be key.
The government strategy will be a critical component of the country's approach to suicide prevention – but this awareness day also reminds us that we can all take action now to achieve the zero-suicide ambition.
This blog was first published by HSJ.