It has been a year since we published our suicide prevention planning guidance and thought it was a timely opportunity to take stock on progress made over that time.
The policy landscape has certainly progressed rapidly. In November 2016 Public Health England (PHE) gave evidence to the Health Select Committee on Suicide Prevention. The Department of Health responded to their final report in July 2017 and a key action was to establish a new national suicide prevention delivery group made up of leading policy officials across Government.
This group was tasked with delivering the aims of the cross government national suicide prevention strategy and the ambitions set out in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.
In January 2017, the Prime Minister launched a refreshed suicide prevention strategy referring to the ‘shocking reality of 13 suicides per day’. Alongside this PHE launched a range of resources with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) to support local areas to commission, provide and evaluate support after a suicide.
This will also help to ensure that our updated Help is at Hand guidance to support those affected by suicide reaches people who need it.
The mental health taskforce recommended that all local areas should have suicide prevention plans in place by 2017 so we undertook a survey to assess progress and published this information on our atlas of variation. We were pleased to see that 95% of local areas reported that they had existing suicide prevention plans or a plan to develop one and we still be taking stock again later this year.
Continuing to build the evidence base
This year we have also continued to build the evidence base and in March we published research commissioned from ONS on figures of suicides by occupation. To support actions arising from this we worked with Business in the Community to publish toolkits for employers to reduce the risk of suicide and crisis management in the event of a suicide.
Of course the real test is the action on the ground to save lives and ensuring our resources are being used and to provide continued support. We have been working with the NSPA to deliver 9 masterclasses and a webinar across England about best practice and challenges to delivering suicide prevention interventions.
These reached over 500 people and 79% of local authorities. Some key feedback we got included the need for more examples of good practice and support. In response to this we are today launching a further suite of case studies, films and guidance, jointly with the NSPA which aim to identify some of the gaps in information.
This includes a film with Steve Gilbert, a survivor of suicide, discussing how local areas can genuinely engage people with lived experience of mental health issues, a case study of work by Leeds City Council and the Fire and Rescue service to reduce social isolation and a case study on a programme run by South Liverpool Citizens Advice providing practice support for people in distress, helping to address the wider determinants of health.
These are supported by a slide pack which professionals can use to make the case and provide guidance on developing suicide prevention activities as well as a range of infographics. These are all available on the NSPA website.
Finally, it was encouraging to see recent ONS statistics for 2016 show a 6% fall in the suicide rate in England, 245 fewer deaths, linked to suicide prevention work. The male suicide rate has fallen for three consecutive years and the recent rise in female rate has reversed. However, this is still 4575 deaths, 1 every 90 minutes, which is far too many and inequalities persist.
We need to keep up the momentum and to do so we will be supporting the forthcoming sector led improvement by the Local Government Association and The Association of Directors of Public Health and working with NHS England to ensure that the £25 million allocated for suicide prevention in 2018-2020 makes the biggest impact.
Suite of further support:
|Guide to suicide prevention planning
|A slideset for people working in suicide prevention to make the case and provide advice on how to develop suicide prevention plans.
|Lived experience film
|Film interviewing Steve Gilbert, a survivor of suicide, talking about how local areas can genuinely engage people with lived experience in their suicide prevention planning.
|Media reporting and harmful content online
|A film with Helen Garnham interviewing Lorna Fraser Media Adviser at Samaritans discussing the importance of responsible media reporting, online suicide and self harm challenges and best practice on how to approach these.
|Case study ‘adopt a block’. Work between the fire service and local authority to reach vulnerable people through standard fire checks.
|Information sheet setting out how coroners reach conclusions
|Case study on integrated approach between criminal justice and health for suicide prevention
|Information pack on how to develop a police led suicide surveillance system.
|Evaluating your strategy
|Information sheet with Professor David Gunnell advising on evaluating local suicide prevention activity.
|Case study on their project in South Liverpool which enables referrals from GPs for practical support to people in distress, with links to its online database maintained to help local areas understand the issues their clients are facing.
|Information sheet on socio economic deprivation and its links to suicide with a summary of Samaritans report on this.
|A range of infographics for use in presentations/social media/websites
You can also read our blog on moving forward with the prevention of mental health problems, which sets out our Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health.