Help for bereaved as Suffolk marks Suicide Prevention Day
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Bereavement is just the start of grief for the two-thirds of people more likely to make an attempt on their own life following the death by suicide of a loved one.
As the world observes Suicide Prevention Day, a new service has been launched in Suffolk to support those afflicted by loss.
More than 3,700 people are thought to be affected by suicide in this county each year – with about 62 people taking their lives annually and survey data suggesting another 60 people experience a direct impact.
While support is already offered by Suffolk’s branch of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, a new service will be put to the test after receiving £22,000 from the county council and £8,000 from Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) for a 12-month pilot.
Run by Listening Ear, which operates the ‘Amparo’ project in Merseyside and Cheshire, the service will work with the police, coroner and partners to offer support after a suspected suicide.
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A prevention strategy was launched in 2016 with the aim of reducing suicide by 10% across Suffolk – six lives a year – by 2021.
Since then, more than 400 people have been trained to prevent suicide and 150 have become ‘Suffolk Life Savers’.
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Suicide prevention partners include Suffolk’s public health team, police, the coroner, CCGs, Samaritans, Suffolk Mind and Healthwatch Suffolk.
County health chief, James Reeder said: “In Suffolk we have some outstanding support services, who are ready to listen and offer advice, and the new service will provide additional support and collaborate with these organisations.”
Dr John Hague, mental health clinical lead for Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, said: “The new suicide liaison service offers a skilled worker, who is available very soon after the event. They will help guide the bereaved, and those close by them, both practically and emotionally, through what will be one of the most difficult times of their lives.”
Liz Howlett, suicide reduction plan implementation lead with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), a prevention partnership member, said she the introduction of Listening Ear would make it easier for people to access the right help and support at a time they may be most vulnerable.
The first year of the trust’s own suicide prevention strategy included educational events to target the groups most at risk, while specific training will soon be rolled out to NSFT staff to raise awareness of the needs of carers.
The trust also joined the Zero Suicide Alliance – a coalition of NHS organisations, emergency services, councils, charities, large employers and community groups supporting the ambition of creating a world without suicide.
NSFT pledged that all 4,000 staff, including those in non-clinical roles, will compete e-learning on suicide prevention. Nearly half have done so, with the module providing skills to approach people having suicidal thoughts and help them get further support.
With men more likely to take their lives by suicide, the trust has hosted dedicated conferences to encourage them to ask for help, while the ‘All to Play For’ football scheme offers an informal space for mutual support.
Another pilot saw clinicians at Ipswich A&E’s psychiatric liaison service refer suitable and willing users to the Samaritans, where volunteers arrange a call within 48 hours – giving an opportunity to access additional support and a listening ear at any time.
The east Suffolk scheme has helped about 100 people in less than a year and is set for a wider roll-out in coming months.
Simon Leach, NSFT locality manager, said the offer for a volunteer to call could be made for a number of reasons, adding: “The individual may be waiting for an assessment or treatment, may not be eligible for treatment from the trust, may be about to be discharged from trust care or may just need to talk.”
Judy Wright, Ipswich and East Suffolk Samaritans director, said the partnership had enabled support for people in need of extra help when struggling to cope.
The branch will take part in a Suicide Prevention Day event, organised by Suffolk MIND, from 11am-6.30pm at Quay Place, Ipswich, on Monday.
Samaritans also works with local prisons and with Ipswich Town Football Club to promote the ‘Are you feeling Blue?’ initiative.
Samaritans are available at all times on 116 123 at email@example.com or samaritans.org.
Wellbeing Suffolk helps people with common mental health and emotional issues. Call 0300 1231503 or visit wellbeingnands.co.uk.
•Two people have opened up about their experiences of losing a loved one to suicide.
People avoided talking to Chris Lodge about the death of wife Ursula in May 2008.
“After somebody dies by suicide, often people only remember them for that last act and many can be so cruel,” said Mr Lodge, who lives near Stowmarket.
“Nobody would use that language if somebody lost a loved one to cancer or old age.”
Suzy Clifford, of Bury St Edmunds, set up the Suffolk branch of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide following the death of husband Len three years after he developed psychological issues resulting from a brain injury suffered in a car crash.
“All grief carries guilt, but the guilt which survivors feel comes from the idea that you should have prevented it – that somehow you are flawed and have done something wrong,” she said.
“It’s when you get into that circle of thought that you become most vulnerable.”
•A message of hope has been written by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) service users to anyone contemplating suicide.
The message, which includes details of Samaritans, Childline, Refugee Action and HOPElineUK, will be posted online, at GP surgeries, NSFT bases and other NHS sites.
It reads: “We don’t want anyone else to go through the trauma of suicide. We would like to give you some hope. This is a message because we care.
“We don’t know exactly how you are feeling at this moment but please don’t feel you are somehow weak or a failure…. Give yourself some time.
“Talk to someone you can trust who will listen. By talking things over a great sense of pressure is released – it becomes possible for your problems to seem more manageable… Reach out for hope. We now have a life and a future and there is a future waiting for you. With love from me to you.”
•New figures from rail company Greater Anglia show how its staff have helped to save more than 30 people from attempting to commit suicide so far this year.
Figures show that from 1 January to 31 August Greater Anglia staff have staged 32 interventions where they have helped vulnerable or distressed people at station across the network.
The train operator is showing its support for World Suicide Prevention day, on September 10, by bringing in additional Land Sheriffs and training more staff in suicide prevention, to help keep people safe on the railway.
Yvonne Monaghan, Greater Anglia’s Suicide Prevention Manager, said: “We work in partnership with Samaritans, British Transport Police and Network Rail to prevent suicides on the railway. For every life lost, six are saved and we’re very proud of our colleagues who have carried out suicide interventions.
“We are doing everything we can to keep people safe while using our rail network. More staff than ever before have completed Samaritans’ managing suicidal contacts course, which helps train rail staff to approach vulnerable or distressed people.”
A total of 313 staff – more than 10% of the Greater Anglia workforce – have completed Samaritans’ managing suicidal contacts course, which is a one-day course tailored specifically to people working within the rail industry.
It focuses on the benefits of a short conversation with someone who may be experiencing suicidal feelings and the techniques required to sensitively support that person and help begin their recovery.
These emotional ‘first aid skills’ are also beneficial when responding to family and friends who may visit the location following a loved one’s death and when supporting a colleague affected by trauma. They are also valuable in our personal lives, listening to friends or family in need.
Rail Pastors have also been patrolling trains and stations in Essex since the start of the year. They are an extension of the street pastors and are there to help anyone who is vulnerable or in need of help.
Network Rail staff have also received training to show them how to help people in this situation.