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Now more than ever we need action on suicide prevention

09 September 2020 | by Guest

Today's guest blog comes to us courtesy of Professor Rory O’Connor, Director of the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory and Professor of Health Psychology.

As we reach September, children head back to school and for many life begins to slip back into some form of ‘normality’.

But as we are all well aware, 2020 has been far from normal. The Coronavirus pandemic has had impacts on all areas of our lives which we know will reach long and far into the future.

The conversation around mental health, and sadly suicide, has never been more relevant and pertinent in our society.

Jn July University College London revealed that 8,000 out of 44,000 people surveyed (18%) reported thoughts of self-harm or suicide, and 42% had accessed support services.

And we see almost daily reports of the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on mental health, and how the lack of access to crucial services for the most vulnerable has led to a perfect storm of a mental health crisis.

Tackling stigma and discrimination is vital and we also need a greater understanding about the thoughts behind suicidal thinking and the devastating impact it leaves behind on families, friends and communities.

We need bold and brave public awareness campaigns to support more effective intervention and the media must report suicide responsibly.

As with everything education is key and mental health training and education in schools must be improved, so young people know how to ask for help, and who to ask.

In 2018 we published our call to action to Government and other organisations, and now more than ever we reiterate this call – urgent action needs to be taken to make a lasting change to how we prevent unnecessary suicides.

  • Research into public mental health interventions and research into innovative brief psychosocial to reduce suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviours and deaths by suicide is vital.

  • 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 develop 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.

Now more than ever, we must talk about suicide. We must look at all aspects of society, not just health professionals, to help us take steps to collectively prevent more unnecessary deaths.


Support and advice

  • Samaritans has a free helpline for adults who need to talk. Call 116 123. It's open 24 hours, 365 days of the year. They also offer email support.

  • If a child or young person is experiencing a mental health crisis, they can contact YoungMinds Crisis Messenger for free, 24/7 on YM 85258.

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