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This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Preventing suicide: your thoughts and experiences

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Mental health, News, Safeguarding

Suicide. It is unquestionably one of the most heartbreaking and traumatic subjects to tackle from a health and care perspective, but tackle it we must.

Today, the Department of Health has published its first annual report on England’s cross-government suicide prevention strategy. Among other things, the report calls for a renewed commitment by health care professionals to listen more closely to friends or family who worry someone close to them may be at risk of self harm.

Likewise, those charged with diagnosing and treating those with a history of self harming or suicidal thoughts are asked to be more forthcoming to patients, their friends and families in terms of advice and support. There are obvious difficulties and sensitivities over sharing confidential information but these must be addressed if the goal of more effective and timely interventions is to be achieved.

Here at the Social Care News blog we would be interested to hear your views on the report and to share your experiences from both a personal and professional perspective. What more could and should we be doing to prevent self harm and suicide in this country?

Share your examples of where the health and care system got it right, but also situations where you feel more could have been done. Information is the power to change lives for the better.

Read the Department of Health news story for more information.

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  1. Comment by Shurleea posted on

    The NHS treats self harmers as attention seekers, the only guarantee from a psychiatrist is being given a prescription, yet nobody sees that we need help.
    Psychiatry \ ists should be dispensed with and GP's supported to give better quality care.
    Anyone can be a psychiatrist, the diagnose us using a multiple choice quiz (ICD10) then work through the BNF hoping to strike lucky with medication … but not one of them looks at the root cause!

    If you were a victim of child abuse, antidepressants are not going ti help, if you are a married man,about to lose your job an risk losing your home and family, anti depressants are not going to help, but they just prescribe, they do not care.

    As a long term self harmer in my 70's, I would never tell anyone in the general sector that I have a MH history, if I do, everything after that becomes a mental health problems, they stop seeing the real person, the panic when they see us with a pairs of scissors cutting a piece of thread, yet they self harm every day during their fag puffing sessions at the hospital gates.

    The mental health system has failed us for years but still the MH budget gets cut every year, still we are admitted and locked in wards looking a four walls all day. Mental health care today is about control not care, it is about making sure no blame falls on them.

    I have had fantastic mental health care via my GP that draws rings around psychiatrists with many years experience under their belts. My GP makes time to listen, he understands, he cares, not because he tells me so, but because that is what I feel.

    Seeing a psychiatrists is just another day spent on a conveyor belt, a waste of time and effort, but it adds yet another 'script' to the NHS budget!

  2. Comment by Johnny Partridge posted on

    Both of these subjects are still taboo in society sadly, and so their is little understanding of them and not much greater understanding of the related mental health issues such as depression. The public need to have a much better understanding of mental health to break down these taboo's.

  3. Comment by Stephen Tormey posted on

    I disagree with Shurleea's comment above in its entirety. There are excellent services around the country to help people and while I agree that NHS is not always the quickest service in terms of getting help to those who need it the help is there with many wonderful psychological counsellors and therapists who have the patients interests at heart.

    My advice and experiences are contained below.

    If you are concerned that you might be suffering from depression, you probably are. Go to your doctor. Tell him or her how you are feeling and ask for a referral to a mental health professional.

    Depression is serious business and general practitioners are not going to be as effective at helping you get your depression under control as a doctor or therapist that specializes in the treatment of this very real and complex condition. If you are having problems falling asleep, staying asleep, waking early, or feel tired a mere ten minutes after you get out of bed for the day, talk to your doctor. If you can’t concentrate for longer than a toddler, find yourself forgetting just about everything and can’t seem to get organized no matter what you do, talk to your doctor. If you find that you have become the most angry, negative, oversensitive, nit-picky, passive aggressive person you know, talk to your doctor.

    If you think that by getting help or talking about it makes you weak, you are wrong. Strong people are open, honest and committed to doing right by others and for others and depression makes doing right difficult, if not impossible but there comes a time when you have to be honest with yourself about how you are coping and do the right thing for yourself for your own well being.

    Depression does not appear like a broken ankle or fractured arm or a burn or a bleeding wound or a bruised leg. It sometimes hangs out with, anxiety, insomnia, alcoholism, anorexia, bulimia, psychosis, stress and the unscrupulous low self-esteem. All of these associates of Depression, are brutal on the body making you weaker and weaker. Once it has driven you into a corner where there is no where else to go, it completely takes over your mind and bodily functions like a kind of possession. People die from the physical damage and havoc that these dis-eases, wreak on their insides. And nobody can see the pain and suffering that you endure.

    "Depression tests the strongest of us and no one should ever feel that they are to blame for succumbing to depression."

    Depression hurts, Depression kills. Depression looks different and feels different for everyone.

    How do I know this - because I have been diagnosed with, Chronic Depression, and I have suffered like all other patients with Depression for seven years now. I have survived suicide attempts, self harm and self pity. But I went to my Doctor, i was referred to a wonderful team of specialists including a Psychiatrist and I wish I had done so much earlier in my life. I spent two months in an adult mental health hospital have spent hours and hours on group therapy and one to one therapy and these services have saved my life and given me a future where I saw none. Coupled with medication that was assessed for me by the Psychiatrist I am getting better.
    My family, friends and work colleagues have all been a rock of support and strength for me so don't think it is still a taboo it's not, not anymore.

    Don't endure suffering like most of us have done and remember, if you think you are depressed, then you probably are, so please, go to your Doctor! X

  4. Comment by mchammer posted on

    My younger brother committed suicide in his 40's. He was a high acheiver who had worked hard and owned his own 4 bedroom house in a nice residential area. He had a wife and two wonderful children. He was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in his late 30's. He never came to terms with his diagnosis and ended up out of work and very angry. I was also diagnosed with bipolar at the same time. I was also very angery about my diagnosis. The way I was diagnose was as if I had been handed a label. There was no realisation that I may find this news distressing or hard to come to terms with. It was handed out to me as if it was a label. It looked to me like it was useful for the medical profession to identify how to treat me. This meant I could be passed on to the next step and be 'treated properly' (by medication only). I was in real shock but nobody realised this. I eventually came to terms with being bipolar but discovered myself what this meant for me and how I could best live with it and not let it rule or ruin my life. Bipolar is actually unique for each person. It is my firm belief that if my brother had been handled differently with his diagnosis then he would not have reacted the way he did and ended up taking his own life. I believe he committed suicide because he was not properly told about and helped to come to terms with his condition.

  5. Comment by sway posted on

    My teenage son, self harms, help?- theres very little, and what there is, is poor! We as parents have had to fight all the way, for a pathetic response from GP, school and CAhms! and just as we see light at the end of the tunnel, the therapists go on holiday-for all of august! so come 4 weeks later, he refuses to go again, back to square 1, we do our best, we will continue to do our best....why cant they do their best for our boy?

  6. Comment by Blackdragon posted on

    As a professional social worker, and qualified (but not currently practising) counsellor / psychotherapist I guess I see more mental health issues than the average person. However, I have a long history of depression, anxiety attacks and suicidal thoughts that have been exacerbated by the high pressures and stress of my job. The situation is very prevalent within social care employment: too much work, not enough workers. Sadly it means that I now have to give up the work I love and have been trained for.
    After getting very close to suicide a few months ago, my excellent GP (who always makes time for me and listens) referred me to a psychologist. I was seen quickly, but the process of tick sheet analysis left me cold, and I think that he missed a valuable opportunity to get to the roots of my continuing condition. He did advise a change in anti-depression medication, which has helped. I was also referred to an NHS cognitive behavioural therapist. Such was the waiting list, it was nearly 3 months before I got my first appointment, a little late if it was going to help prevent me topping myself! The therapist is overworked, and consequently can only see clients fortnightly instead of weekly.
    CBT can be an effective short term treatment, but does not tackle long term underlying conditions that will result in relapse. However, other disciplines of therapy such as Person Centred (Rogerian), Jungian/ Freudian psychoanalysis, Gestaldt etc. all take at least 6-12 months. CBT is usually conducted for 6-8 sessions, so is much cheaper, so no wonder NHS use it for everyone, when it is not always appropriate. There are a surplus of qualified counsellors in the UK, left working for free or not at all because NHS goes for CBT in most cases.

  7. Comment by Abby posted on

    In my experience, the quality of mental health services depend very much on where you live, who you are and luck.

    My daughter has psychosis. She self harms and fights the desire to commit suicide everyday. She is also the very good mother of two young children but is constantly afraid that social services will take her children away from her because of her diagnosis (this is a threat leveled at her regularly by her psychiatrist). She is "lucky" that the psychiatric nurse assigned to her is devoted to supporting people with mental health through therapies other than resorting to anti-psychotic drugs which would make it impossible for her to care for her children. She has told me that it is in part the fear that her children will be taken away or that the treatment she currently received will be taken away that contributes to her desire to commit suicide. Having heard about my daughters experiences with various mental health care professionals i can't help but belive that many psychatrists have no idea what it feels like to live with poor mental health and have no desire to find out. They seem to be only interested in prescribing drugs, making assumptions and as a result getting the diagnosis wrong. This needs to change to provide person centred services backed up by better training and less reliance on drug therapy.

    I was diagnosed with depression fifteen years ago, when I was in my fourties. Unlike my daughter, I am on medication, I take anti-depressants which I think help but as I have not had any other treatment options open to me it is impossible for me to be certain. The drugs do not stop me from wanting to take my own life from time to time. So far I haven't made a serious attempt on my own life but it worries me that I may not always be able to talk myself out of it. For me it is very much a case of having to deal with these feelings alone. I have found it very difficult to access mental health services. I was six weeks of counselling but found it unhelpful - I got more from talking to my daughter about my feelings than I did from the counsellor. I am now waiting for one-to-one cognitive behavioural therapy - I have been waiting for three months and have no idea how much longer i will have to wait. The only support I have received is a list of phone numbers for various charities, including the Samaritans. These are useless to me as when I am feeling suicidal the last thing I feel like doing is speaking to a disembodied voice on the other end of a phone. I want to talk to someone who I can be confident understands how I feel when I am not feeling suicidal, who doesn't make assumptions about me. Someone who can help me develop strategies for dealing with these feelings, gain an understanding of why I feel that way and help me recognise the triggers.

    I get the impression that my age, status and lifestyle is against me when it comes to accessing mental health services. If I was, like my daughter, in my twenties, and particularly if I had children, and/or had a substance abuse problem, I would have a better chance of getting help. If I was suffering from dementia I would also be able to access services more quickly. But, as middle aged woman with no history of substance abuse I am left to fend for myself.

  8. Comment by ED Forte posted on

    If you are fortunate your GP will identify signs of occurring or impending mental health crisis. If you are fortunate he may refer you on to overstretched services where the first plan of attack to prevent you from becoming too much of a burden is to medicate you into submission.
    Once upon a time there was a small group in Plymouth who were fortunate to attend what was called "Psychodrama". Do you know this actually worked! it provided reinforcement, security, the ability to express freely, and through role-play enact scenarios enabling identification of causative issues for the individual. I remember as a member of the group how effective it was.
    we may not be able to achieve utopian services but let us try to achieve something.