World Suicide Prevention Day - 10 September
It’s World Suicide Prevention Day today (10 September). Organisations including Derbyshire County Council are sharing lots of great information and advice that can be issued to members of the public.
Help prevent suicide in six steps
As you probably know, there are many factors that can lead someone to take their own life and these must be explored and interpreted according to how they affect the individual concerned. However, right now, we are seeing some worrying social and economic developments that may lead to an increased risk of suicide for some of the people we provide care for. And those developments are happening at an unprecedented rate, for example:
Isolation and lack of social support – caused, of course, by the lockdown restrictions, the like of which we have never seen before
Experiences of trauma and abuse – in April, the charity Refuge reported a 50% increase in calls to its national domestic abuse helpline and a 400% spike in visits to its website since the lockdown began
Economic problems – there are now an estimated 2.7 million people in the UK claiming unemployment benefits, up by 1.5 million from March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began. This is affecting our area, too: when compared to 62 other cities and towns in the UK, Derby saw the eighth biggest rise in unemployment benefit claims between April and May. Losing your job is the kind of difficult life event that can leave people feeling pessimistic about the future and unable to cope.
It’s so important that we all take steps to prevent suicide. Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (DHCFT) has suggested six steps that you might like to follow with your service users or clients, and anyone else you are concerned about. These steps are listed below and summarised on a ’six steps’ poster which you can view on the DHCFT website.
Help prevent suicide in six steps
Explore how the individual is feeling
Have they had any thoughts of wanting to harm themselves, or of dying by suicide? Have the confidence to ask that question directly. Take all suicidal thoughts seriously.
Offer support in developing a safety plan to stay safe from suicide
The suicide prevention safety plan on the stayingsafe.net website can be completed on paper or electronically, and will help the person to think of activities to help them get through those first few difficult minutes, ways to make their situation safer and things to lift or calm their mood and identify people who can support them. It’s a tool that’s been created in partnership with people who have lived experience. Also worth recommending is the ‘Stay Alive’ app, a suicide prevention app which offers help and support both to people with thoughts of suicide and to people concerned about someone else. The app can be personalised to tailor it to the user.
Where possible, remove access to means of self-harm
Reducing access to lethal means of self-harm has been shown to be an effective way of lowering the risk of suicide. Consider this when exploring suicidal thoughts and also ensure the safe storage and prescribing of medication to reduce the risks associated with overdose.
DHCFT has produced a public leaflet on the safe management of mental health medication, called ‘Risky Alone, Toxic Together’, which you may wish to share; the leaflet is available on the DHCFT website in the 'understanding your medication' section. On the same website there is also a tool for health professionals to support effective conversations with patients, carers and colleagues, called Medicines and Suicide.
Review and update existing support mechanisms or safety plans
If the individual has completed a safety plan, take a look and see whether the resources and solutions that are listed in it are still available. If the person benefits from swimming at their local pool, is that pool currently open? If they regularly attend a community group, is it running over Zoom – and if so, can the individual access it? If not, what new forms of support might they use in the meantime?
Encourage the individual to talk to someone they trust
Even if the person says they are fine or doesn’t want to speak to you, help them to identify people to message or get in touch with. That could be just for a chat and not necessarily to open up about their feelings. Encourage them to write down all the contact details and when they can be contacted as part of their suicide prevention safety plan.
Share telephone numbers of services that can offer support
There are several of these services listed on the Derbyshire County Council website or on the DHCFT website, on the help in a crisis page. The easiest one to remember is the Samaritans (116 123) and DHCFT now has a mental health support line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on 0800 028 0077.
These are small steps that could make a big difference. Please take the time to follow these steps and please share any feedback on your experiences of having these conversations with clients and service users, so we can continue to learn and improve across the Derbyshire health and care system.