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Suicide prevention work in communities can make a difference, says Centre for Mental Health report

Community groups and NHS organisations across the East of England have been praised in a Centre for Mental Health report for their creative support in helping to reduce the number of people committing suicide.

Aiming for Zero Suicides, by Lawrence Moulin, assesses work taking place in the region to extend suicide prevention activities into local communities that have never been reached by previous schemes.

The evaluation report highlights local actions including training key staff such as GPs, police officers, teachers and housing officers. It finds that in some areas training was given to ‘unusual suspects’ including pub landlords and gym workers. The report notes that some of the people who received the training have already saved lives.

The report looked at initiatives in four local areas as part of a Zero Suicide initiative in the region, commissioned and funded by the East of England Strategic Clinical Networks. The initiative aims to prevent suicides by creating a more open environment for people to talk about suicidal thoughts and enabling others to help them.

Local actions also included raising awareness with local newspapers or through social media and finding ways of preventing suicide in local ‘hot spots’ such as bridges and railways. Training was also given to coroners, private security staff, and faith groups. And in some local areas ‘community champions’ were recruited to put local people in control of how schemes were delivered.

The report says that training in suicide prevention must be backed up with ongoing support to help people to make use of the skills they have learned. And it concludes that we need more research and better, faster information to know what works best to prevent suicides and evaluate the effectiveness of suicide prevention programmes.

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sean Duggan said: ‘The Zero Suicide initiative has prompted a range of creative local responses to suicide prevention. They can reach people who would otherwise not get information or training to help to prevent a tragedy. The report shows the potential that can be unleashed by supporting local innovation. This needs to be backed up by robust routine data to help build up evidence of what works locally.’

Dr Caroline Dollery, Clinical Director of the East of England Mental Health SCN and Chair of MECCG, said: ‘It has been inspirational to see the commitment and determination of communities, third sector, commissioners and providers come together around such an important area as suicide prevention. The impact of suicide is devastating, and taking an ambition like zero suicide has demonstrated the desire of individuals, communities and professionals to improve our approach and reduce the stigma of talking about distress.  

‘These sites show that when there is real desire to effect change, organisational barriers can be made to come down. The sites are all embedded in commissioning plans going forward and I am sure we will continue to learn from this year on year. Our particular thanks go to Dr Ed Coffey, who has constantly supported and inspired the work.’