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BPS Policy Unit

Mental Health Awareness Week - Suicide Prevention

14 May 2018 | by BPS Policy Unit

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week we will be publishing a number of blog articles promoting a series of prevention strategies and policy approaches designed to address psychosocial health concerns before they emerge into full blown health issues, beginning with this piece focussed on the issue of suicide prevention.

This year Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on stress, as research has shown that 16 million people experience a mental health problem each year, and stress is a key factor in this.

By tackling stress, we can go a long way to tackle mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and, in some instances, self-harm and suicide.

The tragedy of suicide is preventable. Early identification and effective action can get people the care they need. We know that men 20-29 and 40-49 are most at risk, and suicide is the leading cause of death among men under 50.

We need greater understanding about the thoughts behind suicidal thinking and awareness about suicide, its devastating impact on families, friends and communities and the steps we can take collectively to prevent more deaths.

Much progress has been made in tackling stigma, discrimination and increasing awareness of suicide - but the responsibility cannot sit with health professionals alone.

International evidence shows that restricting access to means of suicide will lead to fewer instances of suicide. Public awareness campaigns to support more effective intervention and the responsible reporting of suicide in print, broadcast, internet and on social media can reduce stigma about mental health issues and encourage people to seek help. Improved mental health training and education in schools is vital so that young people are better equipped to ask for help.

Call to Action

Prevention and early intervention is fundamental to suicide prevention. The Society calls upon the Government agencies and other organisations to act upon the following recommendations:

  • The Government must ensure investment in research into public mental health interventions and research into innovative brief psychosocial to reduce suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviours and deaths by suicide

  • Whilst there has been some progress made in tackling stigma and discrimination there is still considerable work to be done. Improved training and education in health, social care and educational settings are needed to understand better the barriers in asking for help. This requires increased Government investment to support it and expert psychological input to ensure it is appropriately designed and delivered

  • Health Departments should ensure those discharged from hospital should receive a follow-up appointment within three days

  • Health Departments should ensure that enhanced support for is provided for people bereaved by suicide, as outlined in Hand is at Hand (PHE & NSPA, 2015)

  • The Royal College of General Practitioners should consider the development and introduction of mandatory GP training on identifying signs and symptoms of suicide ideation/behaviour; and appropriate referrals/immediate support

  • OfCOM in conjunction with the Society and the Samaritans should strengthen the guidelines for the media on the reporting of suicide

  • Government Departments should ensure that clinical guidelines on risk assessment following self-harm need are implemented consistently across the country

  • Education Departments of should development appropriate psychologically informed curricula content for children and young people via personal, social, health and economic education in schools

  • UK Research and Innovation should establish increased funding for research into the causes of suicide and trials into suicide prevention, especially in vulnerable groups

  • Health Departments should support the development of clinical guidelines for stepped intervention and postvention support

  • The Departments for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy should support the development of appropriate technological intervention techniques for use on Smartphones etc.

For a psychological perspective on understanding and preventing suicide please click here to see the Society’s position statement, Understanding and Preventing Suicide: A Psychological Perspective.

Nigel Atter (Policy Advisor)


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