Suicide Prevention Day focus for council

Leeds councillors will be among those marking World Suicide Prevention Day in the city on 10th September. A deputation to the council by people bereaved by suicide will highlight Leeds City Council’s commitment of over £200k to the development of support groups for people bereaved by suicide.

Councillor Fiona Venner, who is also the Director of mental health charity Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service, said:

“A suicide is not like any other death. We know the statistics highlight the risks, but every suicide is an individual tragedy for the person who believed they had no other option and the friends and family who loved them. There is support available which can make a huge difference and prevent suicide. There’s also support for people bereaved by suicide. We want to raise people’s awareness of the help out there and the things you can do if you need help yourself or you know someone else who does.”

Leeds City Council funds a ‘SafeTALK’ training programme, provided by charity Community Links. It prepares people to identify someone with thoughts of suicide and connect them to suicide first aid resources.

The SafeTALK course is free for anyone over 15 who lives or works in Leeds, and who wants to help prevent suicides. Lasting three hours, it is aimed at people in the local community who have no previous experience of working with people who are suicidal.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Chair of Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, said:

“Rates of suicide in Leeds are similar to national rates, but what we need to address is that certain groups of people are at higher risk of suicide. We know white middle-aged men, who don’t have jobs, live alone and have a history of relationship problems, substance use or self-harm and suicide attempts seem to be at highest risk.

“If we make it easier to talk about our mental health, then it will be easier to help people find appropriate help and support. As almost two thirds of the people who were identified in the audit had not made contact with mental health services, we know how important it is for people to talk about how they are feeling and seek support from organisations which can offer help. Leeds City Council is determined to help people at risk of suicide and I am sure SafeTALK can play a valuable role in this.”

Using information from local research, NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) arranged training for a number of GPs across west Leeds in specialised suicide intervention training to support those at risk of committing suicide. The training, provided by Community Links, aims to increase GPs’ awareness around identifying those at risk of suicide and to have the skills and confidence to intervene earlier.

Dr Jeanette Turley, Clinical Lead for Mental Health and Learning Disability for NHS Leeds West CCG, said:

“Suicide is a terrible waste of a life and it also has a devastating effect on the friends and families involved. We want people to understand that whatever the problems they are having to deal with, there is always an alternative way of escaping from their distress. We hope that by giving GPs the ability to spot warning signs, then those at risk can be identified earlier and given the support that they need.”

Leeds City Council’s Public Health team have already coordinated a range of activity to reduce suicide rates, including community development work with men in the high risk group within LS12, led by BARCA. The men reported that ‘having someone to talk to’ has often saved them from acting on their suicidal thoughts. In addition NHS Leeds West CCG has funded BARCA to provide more ‘Positive Communication’ sessions in West Leeds to help both men and women who are at risk of depression and suicide.

Barry*, who has used BARCA’s men’s group, said:

“If you don’t have someone to talk to – well it’s like walking around with a pocket full of dynamite – that could just go off at any time”

Neruka White, who runs Neruka’s Soul Food Soup Kitchen, said:

“I attended the SafeTALK training as I meet a lot of people who are at crisis point in my work. It has really helped me to build my confidence in recognising the signs of someone at risk of suicide and offering support. Anyone can help someone thinking about suicide and I would encourage others to take part in the training”

*not his real name

Notes for editors:

To book on the safeTALK suicide awareness training call Community Links on 0113 2739675 or email training@commlinks.co.uk

Find out about services available in Leeds at www.leedsmhdirectory.co.uk

Connect is a telephone helpline which provides emotional support and information for people in distress. Open 6pm-10:30pm every night of the year for people living in Leeds - 0808 800 12 12.

SafeTALK training provided by Community Links - http://www.commlinks.co.uk/Sites/Training/events/safeTALK10sept

Summary of findings from Audit of Suicides and Undetermined Deaths in Leeds 2008-2010:

• Audit derived rates for suicide for the Leeds population

− Are similar to those calculated by the Office of National Statistics

− Do not appear to be changing over time

• Of those taking their own life in Leeds:

- 79% were male

- 61% were from a white British background

- 57% were born in Leeds

- 47% were in the 30-50 age group

• Time and place:

- The highest number of recorded deaths was in the LS12 postcode, followed by LS11, LS14, LS15, LS8 and LS9 postcodes

- More suicides occur towards the end of the week

• Figures for risk factors are:

- 42% were unemployed or on long term sick leave

- 40% had relationship problems

- 76% were single, divorced or separated

- 37% were known to have either a drug or alcohol problem or both

- 43% had previously attempted suicide and 30% had self-harmed

• Methods:

- 60% died by hanging /strangulation

- 25% died by poisoning (with no one poison predominating)

- 75% died in their own home, with the next most common location of death being in a park or woodland

• Contact with services:

- 76% had contact with primary care in the three months prior to death

- 31% made their last contact with primary care for a mental health problem

- 17% had made contact with accident and emergency

- 37% were known to be in contact or previously had contact with mental health services

Issued by:

Phil Morcom

Communications and Marketing team

Leeds City Council

4th Floor West, Civic Hall, Leeds, LS1 1UR

Tel: 0113 224 3602

Fax: 0113 247 4736