Lived experience network launched

We’re delighted to announce the launch of our lived experience network, working to enable and support people with lived experience of suicide to influence suicide prevention policy and practice.

By ‘lived experience’ we mean people who have experienced suicidal thoughts, people who have attempted suicide, people living with or in relationships with those with suicidal thoughts, and those bereaved by suicide. This can include professionals working in this field with personal experience.

There are currently two ways to get involved:

  • Join our online panel and respond to surveys and polls in your own time, or on subjects you particularly care about.
  • Apply to become an Influencer and get training and support to influence at a strategic level in meetings or by responding to policy proposals

Read more and join in here.

NSPA webinar: Reaching and supporting men during Covid

On Tuesday 15th September 2pm-3pm, the NSPA will be hosting a webinar on “Reach and Supporting Men During Covid-19”. This webinar will be hosted by Penny Fosten, Executive Lead of the NSPA will hear from two organisations with different services, both of which have had to adapt in response to Covid-19 .  The speakers will be 

  • Joe Potter, Policy Manager at Samaritans talking about their work and research with middle-aged and lower-income men 
  • Ellen O’Donoghue, Executive Director of James’ Place, sharing insights gained from many years working to reach and support men, particularly the work at James’ Place during Covid-19.  

There will be time at the end of the presentations for plenty of questions and discussion, so this will be a great opportunity to learn more. You can register for your ticket here.

Membership and Communications Officer Vacancy

We are currently seeking a part-time Membership and Communications Officer to join our team. The role is a job share with an existing staff member, and will support the development of the NSPA by leading on our membership and communications work, including: managing our social media, supporting the development and maintenance of our website, copywriting our newsletter,  and responding to membership enquiries.

For the full job description and how to apply click here.

Submit a proposal for NSPA Conference 2021

We are inviting proposals for workshop sessions for inclusion in our conference programme for 2021. If you are delivering or have delivered excellent work in suicide prevention or bereavement support and you would like to share it in a workshop at our conference, please complete this brief online survey. This will help us select a diverse range of workshops showcasing inspiring and innovative work in suicide prevention and bereavement support. We can’t guarantee everyone a slot, but we’d love to hear from you. The deadline for submissions is 28th August 2020.

In normal times our conference would be held at the Kia Oval in London, but due to the ever-changing situation regarding COVID-19, we are also making plans for the conference to be held partly or fully online, if necessary. 

Inviting tenders for website redevelopment

We are going to redevelop our website and are now inviting tenders from web developers to help us build an informative and user-friendly site that provides the best source of information on suicide and suicide prevention. The key purpose of our website is to offer information to our members and anyone working in suicide prevention. It will be a place to share knowledge and facilitate networking opportunities for those working in this field.  We are looking for someone who can create an engaging visual design that encourages collaboration, is easy to use and offers valuable member only content.

For more information on what we are looking for and to submit your tender please read the Invitation to Tender here

Lived experience network – paid consultancy opportunities

The NSPA is planning to further develop its membership of people with lived experience by supporting network of at least 100 people with lived experience of suicide and suicidal behaviour who will inform and influence the development of suicide prevention policy and practice, locally, regionally and nationally, through a large online panel and a smaller group of trained and supported advocates and influencers.

We therefore have two flexible, paid consultancy opportunities from July to October 2020:

Application deadlines are 9am on Monday 29th June – all details in the briefs.

Summaries of all our Covid-19-related online discussions now available

Since lockdown started the NSPA has held over 20 online conversations with more than 300 people working in suicide and self-harm prevention, and bereavement support, enabling people to share the challenges they are facing, and the ideas and plans they have to meet them.

Summaries of these conversations are now on our website here including:

  • Sector-specific conversations for those working in charities, the NHS and public health
  • Reaching and supporting specific populations: children and young people, mental health service users, and older adults
  • Service delivery issues, including staff and volunteer well-being, bereavement support, and moving training online
  • Concerns and plans for the future

All summaries are available here.

Summary of COVID-19 and suicide prevention discussions, 30 April 2020 

Between 14th and 29th April, the NSPA held 7 online discussions with over 140 individuals representing over 130 organisations.  Calls were focussed either on specific subjects (e.g. staff and volunteer well-being, bereavement support, and changes to service delivery) or by sector (charities, the NHS, public health).  Across all the conversations there were some very consistent concerns: 

Staff well-being:  

  • Both for those at the front line, residential staff and those working from home, and for trainees and students working on the front-line 
  • Challenging work and difficult personal circumstances combining
  • People feeling responsible and guilty if they don’t do all they can, so not taking breaks or annual leave 
  • Some organisational cultures can stigmatise poor mental health and discourage help-seeking 
  • Concerns this will have long-term impacts including PTSD 

Service user well-being and changes in demand for services:  

  • Some are seeing increases in demand (including for alcohol services), others seeing decreases; there is a general sense that referral pathways have been disrupted
  • Mixed reports on impact on suicide rates
  • All are seeing increased anxiety and distress in those contacting services 
  • Previous service users are getting back in touch for support 
  • Concern that lots of people are not asking for help as they don’t see themselves as a priority (both for their mental health and physical health), or because they can’t speak freely on the phone 

Service delivery changes and challenges:  

  • Moving support online or over the phone, but some people want to wait until they can be seen face to face again 
  • Training delivery has been moved online by some, but concerns around safeguarding and staff availability to undertake vital training 
  • New services include text lines, additional befriending or well-being offers, digital resources, and increased support for all those bereaved during lock-down  

What the future will hold:

  • Will common mental health problems increase during and following lockdown, increasing the risk of self-harm and suicide? 
  • Lots of unknowns making it hard to plan – how long will this last? Who will be most affected, and how?  
  • Long-term impacts on staff and volunteer well-being, especially for those on the front-line who may be at risk of PTSD 
  • Surge in demand as soon as lockdown ends and people feel able to ask for help, or financial support/rent and eviction freezes etc end 
  • Permanent changes to services – could be positive or negative or both 
  • Possible recession and the impact on budgets, services and service users 
  • Some opportunities to build on new systems, services and attitudes 

We continue to hold online discussions, open to any organisation working in suicide prevention.  If you would like to know more please email info@nspa.org.uk.

Summary of NSPA support discussions on impact of COVID-19, 9th April 2020 

As a cross-sector alliance, with local, regional and national members from a wide range of sectors, we’re keen to provide additional support to our members during these unprecedented times. Following our survey and three support meetings last week, we’ve identified key areas which we’ll be focusing our support to members on in the coming weeks. 

Many members are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on suicide rates, both during lockdown and afterwards, when the impact of anticipated recession and associated job losses will be felt. Our voluntary sector members are very concerned about their income reducing, with members from across different sectors aware that demand for voluntary sector services is likely to increase. There were also significant concerns that referrals and access to mental health services is reducing. 

Many local multi-agency suicide prevention group meetings have been cancelled as members are moved onto COVID-19-related work and some real time surveillance systems are struggling to get data from police forces  There is concern on the long-term impact of this lack of co-ordination on local suicide prevention and bereavement support work, but also acknowledgement that some members of those groups are now influencing responses to covid-19 and bringing their vital mental health and suicide prevention knowledge.  

The wellbeing and availability of staff and volunteers is a concern for many NSPA membersaccompanied by the need to change how services are delivered.  Worries include how staff manage the emotional impact of working from home, often with children at home, alongside the additional challenges of dealing with suicide prevention content while in their homes, without the usual support of colleagues. Members who deliver services are moving online where possible, and some are seeing an increase in capacity from volunteers now able to offer more time.  However, there are concerns about the safety and efficacy of that work, with many taking the view that something is better than nothing, and putting safeguards in place as best they can.  

There has been an increase in demand for bereavement support, and many members are worried that bereavement in any form will be additionally complex during lockdown, as people may not be able to grieve with family and friends and may be unable to attend funerals.  

A number of NSPA members are providing support to NHS staff, but there was a strong feeling that all key workers should be offered additional support, including supermarket workers, refuse collectors, construction workers, prison officers, funeral directors and postal workers, who may be harder to reach.  Many people were also keen to support positive national and local mental health and suicide prevention messaging, to balance out the negative and difficult COVID-19 news. 

There was a strong sense of support for each other in all the conversations, and acknowledgement that many people feel isolated in their work and were grateful to be connecting with others working in this area.  

We are keen to continue to support our members, and so we intend to: 

  • Provide at least 2 online discussion and support calls per week.  Proposed sessions include: support for staff and volunteers; bereavement support (working with the Support After Suicide Partnership); and changing service delivery. We also intend to offer sector-specific discussions, including: public health, NHS, and the voluntary sector.  If you would like to join one of these discussions, please email info@nspa.org.uk 
  • Share the work of members in specific areas, including: reviews of evidence of the impact on mental health and suicide ratesand delivering effective and appropriate support groups online. 
  • Support other agencies in the development and dissemination of other guidance and communications messaging. 

Peer Support in the Emergency Department – Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust

In April 2018 Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust employed seven Peer Support Workers to work a shift system alongside the medical staff in their Mental Health Liaison Service.  Here, one of the peer support workers and one of the psychiatrists reflect on the impact they have had.

Responding to suicidal thoughts in the Emergency Department

A peer support worker’s perspective

Mr Sharif Mussa: As a Peer Worker with lived experience of having suicidal thoughts I can’t help but empathise with patients who present with suicidal ideation. From personal experience I believe that stigma plays a big role in how and when we present. Sometimes it’s the last option. I know I always presented once everything else had failed. All we need at that moment in time is to talk to someone who isn’t going to judge but listen and try to understand. Too often I have seen patients presenting with suicidal thoughts waiting for hours to be seen by a clinician. They’ve had to wait because the team is busy. Too often during this time some patients may abscond and may go unnoticed by the system.

A young woman presented in ED in the morning agitated, confrontational, teary, with very angry facial expressions and was refusing to talk to any of the clinicians. She was brought in by Ambulance with a suspected overdose and there were some concerns about her from everyone in the department. She was discussed in afternoon handover and I was assigned to go in and make first contact. When I met her, initially she didn’t want to talk to me and said she was fine, and just wanted to be alone. I introduced myself as a Peer Worker with lived experience of mental health working in the Mental Health Liaison Team and she immediately asked me if she was going to get sectioned. I told her I play no part in those types of decision, but I was there to make sure that she is heard, and the right type of help can be prescribed. I asked if it was okay to disclose about my history with mental health to see if that would help her trust, to which I could see her body language relax more and become more comfortable with our conversation. She disclosed how difficult it had been for her to get to this point in ED especially after her experience with mental health liaison services in the past. See the patient had presented in the past with the same presentation and ended up on a section order against her will, so her relationship with mental health services had become tarnished.

I went on to explain to her how things worked in our team and how the process should be to protect her and not harm her. I shared with her my negative experiences within the system and how I learnt from them. At this point she said she had something in her bag that she was afraid to share in case she ended up on a section again. I told her she shouldn’t feel bad about thinking that way as it showed that she wasn’t unaware of what’s going on and ideally wanted help just not the wrong kind of help. I advised her of the benefits of opening up against those of closing up and allowing the system to choose what’s best for her, at that point she hugged me and said that she would like for me to support her through the process of seeing the clinician. She decided to share with the clinician a suicide letter that made his decision making clearer and more informed. In light of her opening up, which was a challenge as she openly said to the nurse that she wouldn’t have opened up had she not seen me first, the nurse decided to discharge patient home with Crisis Resolution & Home Treatment Team and further psychological therapy.

During our interaction I also told her about the Wellbeing plan, a wellness tool that I had as a tool to help me cope. She expressed an interest in doing it so we did it together and at the end she said she felt a lot better and was grateful that I had taken time out to do it with her.

Through mutual respect and sharing lived experience I was able to allow someone else to feel like they were being listened to and that they are human, which as a result allowed them to trust and open up about why they were behaving the way they were. I fell in love with my job that day. Not only did it help me do my job but sharing my experience with mental health and my role as a Peer Worker with lived experience of mental health actually made it a better experience for the patient. By sharing and allowing myself to be vulnerable I allowed the patient to trust, feel listened to and understood.

It’s not always easy for clinicians to have that much time to spend with complex patients in a busy ED but my role as a Peer Worker allows me to.

A psychiatrist’s perspective

Dr Susie Lingwood: I work as a Psychiatrist in the Mental Health Liaison Team at the North Middlesex University Hospital. I have worked in this team for 5 years and in mental health services for 16 years. Over time my approach to talking to people presenting in mental health crisis has changed a lot. Several things have influenced my practice over the years, but the past 6 months have been hugely useful in terms of growth. I have been able to access training which has really made me think about the power of truly connecting with people, and I have worked with Peer Support Workers who have helped me do this. The barriers that exist between patients and clinicians can exist for many reasons, but one of these is fear. Fear drives us to become distant; to defend ourselves from the reality that suicidal thoughts could affect us too given the wrong circumstances; and to focus on categorising risk or referrals to other mental health services rather than engaging with hopelessness, staying with difficulties and supporting approaches like Safety Planning. I feel inspired every day I work with Peer Support Workers who share their lived experience and overcome fear to help others. I know that our services for people who self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts are better as a result of the reminder that embracing our own vulnerability helps us to do better work.

The City of London Corporation’s suicide prevention work – Nov 2019 update

The National Suicide Prevention Alliance recognises the importance of promoting good mental health at work, and the vital role this can play in suicide prevention. The City of London Corporation, a member of the NSPA, is raising awareness of workplace well-being in the city, promoting help seeking and providing practical support.  You can read about some of the important work they are doing below. (Find their previous update here.)

Mental Health Street Triage

The City of London Corporation Mental Health Street Triage initiative started in May 2017 as a pilot scheme after the Corporation noticed numerous people in crisis were attracted to the square mile to attempt suicide. It was initially implemented from Thursday to Saturdays, and City of London Police officers were accompanied on their 5pm to 3am rounds by NHS mental health nurses who provided on the spot advice and guidance to officers as well as assessing and triaging vulnerable individuals to a place of safety.

Encouraged by the impact of the pilot, the service was extended from 3 to 7 nights a week and over the 2.5 years existence of this service, has supported 681 people in crisis, many of whom would have been transported to a police station should the Mental Health Street Triage have not been in place. The project was awarded NHS team of the year at the end of 2018.

Find out more here.

Business Healthy

During 2019, Business Healthy has been engaging with the business community in the City and further afield, as well as other key stakeholders on the topic of mental health – particularly where it relates to City workers and working-age adults.

Examples of this work include:

  • Delivery of three Suicide Prevention Awareness sessions to the City’s business community, in partnership with Samaritans and the City of London Police (February, June and October 2019). 55 individuals representing 20 different organisations were trained across the three sessions, including Heads of HR, Security and Facilities, as well as employees with an interest in mental health. Feedback showed that, on average, 97% of attendees who responded felt that the session had helped them to feel more confident in identifying and approaching someone who is at crisis point and who might be considering suicide. The sessions also helped to generate income for Samaritans.
  • Showcasing the City of London Corporation’s work on promoting and improving mental wellbeing among the local worker population and suicide prevention at events including the National Suicide Prevention Alliance’s annual conference and a Revo meeting on suicide awareness and prevention in March 2019 (Revo is a national consortium of shopping centre owners), and in publications such as the St John Ambulance blog (for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019), City Security magazine and the Royal Society for Public Health blog. Business Healthy was also an event partner for the Mad World Summit 2019 – a high-profile event focusing on mental health and the workplace.
  • Business Healthy continues to support wider efforts to tackle mental health-related stigma in the workplace, improve mental health literacy among the UK’s workforce and advocate for mental health as a business priority, by its representation on the Steering Group of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal’s “This is Me in the City” and green ribbon campaigns, and as an Operational Lead for the City Mental Health Alliance.
  • Earlier this year Business Healthy conducted qualitative research into the health and wellbeing needs of City workers, which found that mental health and work-life balance are seen as priority areas for City workers and their employers alike, with regard to wider workforce health and wellbeing.
  • Business Healthy also hosted a free webinar on problem gambling, mental health and the workplace, in partnership with charity GamCare and City law firm Squire Patton Boggs.

Find out more here.

Dragon Café in the City

Following a successful pilot in 2018, Dragon Café in the City secured funding which will allow it to be delivered from April 2019 until at least April 2021.

Dragon Café in the City, which operates from Shoe Lane Library fortnightly on Wednesdays (12-7.30pm), offers a range of free and creative activities aimed at providing City workers and residents with an opportunity to release the pressure from day-to-day life. The vast majority of visitors providing feedback have said that attending has helped to improve their mental health.

Dragon Café in the City has also hosted “special” sessions aimed at engaging specific target audiences within the City’s resident and worker populations, including a speaker session, a “Day of the Dead” session focusing on bereavement and a special session to mark National Carers’ Week.

The City of London Corporation’s Public Health team was invited to share insights and best practice from Dragon Café in the City at the City Health International Conference 2019.

Find out more here.

BarberTalk in the City of London

Set up by inspirational British barber Tom Chapman after losing a friend to suicide in 2015, the Lions Barber Collective is turning barbershops into safe spaces for men, using the opportunity of a regular haircut to start conversations about mental health. This international group of barbers helps raise awareness of mental illness and aims to prevent suicide by creating and delivering a specific training for barbers enabling them to recognise, talk and listen out for symptoms of depression in clients and signpost them to relevant support services. Tom developed Barber Talk with the help of psychiatrists and mental health professionals; it is an adaptation of Safe Talk for barbers.

To support the Lions Barber Collective and promote the great work they achieve in making barbershops safe places for men to talk about potential mental health issues, the City of London Corporation supported a promotional event on 7 October 2019 at the Worshipful Company of Barber-Surgeons’ Livery Hall. Ambassadors and volunteers shared their stories and the mission of the Lions Barber Collective, leading to a celebratory ‘first cut’ in the hall in centuries, under Holbein’s painting of Henry VIII with his Barber-Surgeons and Apothecaries.

The City of London Corporation is hopeful that other local authorities will want to promote and support barbers in their area being trained and helping save lives.

Find out more here.

The Listening Place – A Short History

Since it was established in 2015, The Listening Place’s (TLP) exceptional growth has enabled it to support over 2,800 people who felt life was not worth living.

The charity was set up with the objective of reducing the number of people taking their own lives by giving them ongoing, confidential, face-to-face support. It has received over 4,500 referrals in its short history. Clinical qualitative evaluation of the support given to 1000 visitors showed a highly significant reduction in suicidality and distress after three and six months’ support.

In 2015 TLP was open two days a week. It currently operates seven days a week, 9am-9pm. It has recruited and trained 600 volunteers of all ages, from all walks of life. The common denominator is their commitment to supporting their visitors. They support 900 visitors from London and the Home Counties from two sites in London. A third London site is scheduled to open in early 2020 and more premises are planned.

The volunteers are themselves supported by senior supervising volunteers on each shift, a separate small network of experienced listening volunteers on whom they can call at any time, and a separate network of senior healthcare professionals who hold regular supervision sessions at TLP and to whom listeners and their supervisors can look for support and advice with, for example, visitors who are at particular risk.

Two thirds of TLP’s visitors are referred by the NHS, some by other charities, police, social services, universities and some visitors self-refer.

Each person who is referred has an initial assessment. If it’s agreed that TLP can offer the right kind of support, the visitor will be offered six sessions when they can talk openly, without being judged and in complete confidence. Feedback from visitors shows consistently that it is the confidentiality and non-judgemental nature of their sessions that are of the greatest value. After the first six sessions a review of progress can result in visitors being offered further sessions.

In October 2019 The Listening Place won the Third Sector Volunteer Team of the Year Award and was short listed for the Small Charity of The Year. It won the Foundation for Social Impact, Small Charity Big Impact Award and was highly commended for the Outstanding Volunteer Contribution Award from London’s Westminster Council.

The BBC Radio 4 programme “All In The Mind” is well known for its reporting of mental health issues. It featured The Listening Place in one of its weekly broadcasts, with powerful first-hand testimony from one of its visitors who told the programme: “Structural therapies are trying to solve a problem. The best thing about TLP is that if you have got to a level where you are at risk, you just want someone to listen”.

The Office of National Statistics latest report on suicide showed it to be a continuing, challenging issue for the country.  TLP’s hope is that it can continue to play a significant, and hopefully growing, part in managing this ever-increasing  problem.

Read more at www.listeningplace.org.uk.