Today is Time to Talk Day – a day encouraging us all to open up and share our mental health concerns. What better day than this to post a guest blog on suicide prevention? Dr Caroline Dollery is Clinical Director for the East of England Strategic Clinical Network for Mental Health, Dementia, Neurological Conditions, Learning Disability and Autism.
In this post, she shares the work being done by NHS England in the East of England to help prevent acute mental distress from becoming the most tragic of outcomes.
All suicides are preventable. That was the clear message which ran throughout the recent 1st annual National Suicide Prevention Alliance Conference which followed hard on the heels of the recent announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in his call for the NHS to adopt a zero suicide ambition.
In the East of England we have been working on this ambition since November 2013 when Dr Ed Coffey from the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit was invited to a regional conference on suicide prevention in the East of England. He told us about his inspirational work to reduce suicide levels to zero through adopting a ‘perfect depression care pathway’ and we subsequently set up four pilot sites to turn some of this learning into action in the East of England.
Our focus is on using the same language, the same safety planning, the same involvement early on of friends, families and carers and the same focus on the removal of access to the means of suicide and quick access to evidence based treatments. However, we chose to focus our efforts in the community setting to reach the significant amount of people who die through suicide each year without ever reaching a mental health service.
Each project team has worked up a plan for its area and these have been running since April 2014. Every area is delivering innovative training in suicide prevention to GPs and wider professionals such as paramedics and the police. Currently no mandatory suicide prevention training is available for these people despite making up 30 percent of GPs workloads. Gaining access to this resource has been much appreciated.
There has also been a drive on increasing community awareness through high profile public campaigns encouraging people to talk about suicide. The STOP Suicide campaign led by Mind as part of our Cambridge and Peterborough project has been particularly successful and will shortly be adopted by our project site in Essex. The Hertfordshire site has also launched a spot the signs and save a life campaign and this is quickly gaining momentum, whilst the site in Bedfordshire is running a number of local events to spread the key messages.
We are now thinking about how to take this work forward. Our current sites run until April and we are arranging an evaluation to extract the key findings to guide our next steps.
With local groundswells of energy and the national torch firmly shining on the taboo of suicide there has never been a better time to get this work done. As Dr Coffey says: “If zero isn’t the right target, what is?”
Further information and support if you need it
Time to Talk Day
Time to Talk Day 2015 invites you to take 5 minutes out of your day to have a conversation about mental health with a colleague, friend or family member.