In Medway, the Public Health team provide strategic leadership for suicide prevention, including the suicide prevention strategy and steering group.
In 2018, new funding of £667,978 was secured from NHS England for suicide prevention work across the Kent and Medway Sustainable Transformation Partnership (STP) area in 2018/19. Sustainable Transformation Partnerships (STPs) bring together a range of stakeholders including the NHS and local government. Kent and Medway was one of eight areas nationally to receive funding.
This paper provides an overview of suicide prevention work that has taken place during 2018/19 and plans for 2019/20. The programme was agreed by the multi-agency suicide prevention steering group that supports this work in Kent and Medway. The proposed interventions are based on the best evidence available to inform suicide prevention.
It was recognised that suicide was a tragic event that could have a devastating impact for family and friends of the person and on the community as a whole. In Medway, as nationally, men, particularly middle aged men, were at greater risk of suicide than women. In the year before a suicide, a third of people had contact with secondary mental health services, a third had contact with their GP and a third had no contact with health services. This suggested that there was a need to look at community interventions as well as interventions relating directly to health services. Work had taken place with partners through the sustainability and transformation partnership to secure funding from the NHS for work on a suicide prevention programme. Kent and Medway was one of eight areas nationally to have been awarded additional funding for an intensive programme.
The Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Partnership and its steering group included a wide range of partners, including transport and education providers and voluntary sector representation. The focus of work was on the groups most at risk of suicide. The programme delivered over the last year had consisted of nine strands. Some examples of this included the ‘Release the Pressure’ social media campaign. The campaign targeted middle aged men currently not in contact with any services, signposting them to a 24 hour helpline. This had been promoted widely across a number of places in Medway. 4,500 calls from Medway residents had been made to the helpline during the previous year. Other examples included the launch of the Saving Lives Innovation Fund. This provided grants to community organisations to undertake suicide prevention projects. 29 such projects had been undertaken in the year, with over 1,000 people benefitting from these. A range of suicide prevention awareness training was available to both adults and young people.
Each suicide prevention workstream was assessed and externally evaluated to determine its impact and qualitative feedback collected. Feedback from the national team responsible for funding the programme suggested that work in Medway was more advanced than in the other seven areas to have been awarded funding.
Funding had been secured for the next year to enable the local programme to continue. The aim would be to build upon lessons learnt from the previous year, to introduce additional work around systems leadership and to look at pathways in relation to depression. Medway’s Suicide Prevention Strategy was also due to be refreshed with the Suicide Prevention Partnership being responsible for monitoring the Strategy’s action plan.
A Committee Member said there was a need to undertake awareness raising of suicide prevention with universities. There were legal challenges as universities were usually unable to make families aware of concerns without the consent of the individual. It was suggested that the development of a protocol with universities be investigated to enable the disclosure of certain information about students to the families where there was a history of depression or other mental health disorder. The Member, while pleased that improved support was available for bereaved families, said that colleagues also needed support to be available. The Public Health Consultant acknowledged the importance of raising awareness of suicide prevention and the provision of support in the workplace. Work was being undertaken to develop specific training to support workplaces to develop policies around suicide prevention and support following a suicide. This would be piloted over the coming months. Engagement was taking place with local employers. The Director of People, Children and Adults said that universities had to be very cautious about breaching the individual right to privacy and confidentiality but this was an area that could be explored further with local universities.
A Member asked whether a demographic breakdown was available of the 4,500 calls made by Medway residents to the Suicide Prevention helpline. Noting that black men were three times more likely not to seek help until their mental health had reached crisis point, the Member asked what work had been done specifically in relation to BAME and faith groups. The Public Health Consultant advised that the aim was to make all programmes as inclusive as possible. The Innovation Fund has also funded one project specifically relating to faith groups and one specifically related to BAME groups. A breakdown of the demographic breakdown of callers to the Suicide Prevention helpline would be provided following the meeting.
In response to a Member question that asked whether there was data available to show suicide locations and methods, the Public Health Consultant said that data was available. This showed a correlation between suicide rates and levels of deprivation. A protocol was in place with partners to take action in locations where clusters of suicides were identified. The Director of Public Health added that work was undertaken with rail firms, Highways England and other sites identified as having a high suicide risk.
i) Noted and commented on the update on the suicide prevention programme.
ii) Requested that a demographic breakdown of the calls made by Medway residents to the Suicide Prevention Helpline be circulated to the Committee.
iii) Requested that officers engage with universities to consider the scope for informing family members where serious concerns for a student’s welfare had been identified.