Tag Archives: suicide prevention

Olney letter: Suicide risk assessment must be improved

Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park, and Steve Mallen, co-founder of the Zero Suicide Alliance are the lead signatories in an open letter to Sajid Javid published in yesterday’s Times. Olney and national charities have teamed up with Philip Pirie whose son Tom, a young teacher, took his own life a day after a counsellor determined that he was at “low risk” of suicide.

An average of 17 people a day took their own lives in 2020. An average of five of these were in touch with mental health services and four out of those five had been assessed as “low” or “no” risk. Standardised risk assessment tools are poor predictors of suicide. Yet despite NICE guidance saying such assessments should not be used they are still commonplace.

 

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The January Blues: Desolation

Warning: discussion of suicide

Last week in my county division, someone stood at the edge of a motorway bridge with the intention of jumping off. Fortunately, the emergency services got there in time and their life was saved.

I know personally the devastation that suicide can bring on family and friends. My close relative died 26 years ago, and the ramifications are still deeply felt.

As the third in this January Blues series, I wanted to discuss the often hidden topic of suicide. Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 in England and Wales. About three-quarters of suicides in 2016 were male, and the highest rate was amongst men aged 40-44. For women, the age group with the highest suicide rate was 50-54 years. Around the world a person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization.

Mental Health First Aid training teaches that you should bring up the topic if you have any suspicion that someone might be thinking of suicide.

Suicide can be prevented. Most suicidal people do not want to die. They simply do not want to live with the pain. Openly talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

The opening line, “How are you doing?” can be followed by, “Is it all getting too much?” and “Are you thinking about ending your life?” and then “Have you thought how you might do it?”

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Opinion: Some thoughts on preventing suicide

Nick Clegg has been quoted this week as calling for the NHS “to commit to a new ambition for zero suicides”. That is an aspiration that nobody could argue with, but it is unrealistic to believe that it can quite be achieved. Throughout human history and in every kind of society people have died by their own hand, and it would be naïve to believe that a government initiative can single-handedly change that. Nevertheless, he is right to identify suicide as a “massive taboo”. He is also right to raise awareness of the risk. He was speaking particularly in relation to mental health, but we should not infer from that that everybody who contemplates suicide is mentally ill, even though many people suffering from mental illness may indeed see suicide as an escape from an unbearable life.

He was also speaking in relation to the NHS’s role. To be fair, doctors and psychiatrists do routinely ask patients who are depressed or otherwise at risk whether they are suicidal, and many involved in the medical profession are trained to recognise indications of suicidal thought. And everybody who arrives in A&E departments after a suicide attempt is supposed to be seen by a psychiatrist before being discharged, but inevitably many people will simply be returning to the situation from which they were trying to get away. We should also recognise that, among all those in the care of a government-funded organisation, the risk of suicide is rather greater among people sentenced to prison or remanded in custody than it is among those cared for by the health services. Sadly, calling for better emotional support of prisoners does not have the same electoral appeal as concern about the NHS.

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Norman Lamb MP writes… We need to talk openly about suicide and work to prevent it

Yesterday was supposedly “blue Monday” – the most depressing day of the year.  The idea was dreamed up in 2005 by a TV marketing campaign to sell holidays and the myth persists.

But yesterday, Nick Clegg and I were talking about something really serious.  Almost 4,700 people took their own lives in 2013 in England alone, and suicide remains one of the biggest killers for men under the age of 50.  We hosted a conference bringing together leading figures in the mental health world to call for an ambition for ‘zero suicides’ across the NHS.

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