Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) is an upper tier Local Authority that is coterminous with both the Clinical Commissioning Group and Police. The GCC Public Health team take the lead for co-ordinating local suicide prevention activity.
How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?
Gloucestershire County Council Public Health leads and chairs the Gloucestershire Suicide Prevention Partnership (GSPP) which comprises partners from public, private and the voluntary and community sector, as well as people with lived experience. All the partners have worked together to co-produce the Gloucestershire Suicide Prevention Strategy – July 2015 to June 2020 and this strategy seeks to outline the shared aim of preventing suicide in Gloucestershire. GCC Public Health co-ordinates action undertaken by partners to deliver the strategy, ranging from awareness raising to changes to service provision and access and specific interventions for target populations.
Currently we undertake an audit every 3 years of confirmed suicides of Gloucestershire residents and engage partner agencies (e.g. HM Coroner’s Office, 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucestershire Constabulary, Gloucestershire GPs, and Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) to obtain as much detailed information on each anonymised case to build an evidence base on which to base recommendations for preventative action. We have also recently started collecting and monitoring real time information about suspected suicide so that we can analyse risk of suicidal behaviour that might lead to contagion or cluster.
Following the last audit, we have recently appointed a medical doctor who will act as the GP representative and help with GP focussed actions including assisting with Serious Event Analysis/Audits (SEAs), training, referral pathways, information and resource collation.
One of the activities we undertake with our partners in the GSPP is to raise awareness and mark World Suicide Prevention Day. In previous years members of the partnership have provided information and resources to members of the public on the day signposting to various avenues of support for those with suicidal ideation and those who have been bereaved by suicide, we have also encouraged people (including people in the public eye) to write a personal comment about raising awareness of suicide and upload a photograph of them holding this onto Twitter. We have supported conferences on suicide that have been organised by local charities. We have also set up an e-newsletter that is sent out to interested parties on the work we are doing to reduce suicide and raise awareness.
We commission Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses for frontline workers in public and voluntary sector organisations (including mental health workers, social workers, teachers to name a few). We have also provided basic suicide awareness training for police officers and GP practice staff.
We also commission a self harm helpline and website (www.gloucestershireselfharm.org), which is available to all residents between the hours of 5pm and 10pm every day of the year and is provided by Rethink Mental Illness. People who self harm or are thinking about self harm may contact the team via text, online messaging and by telephone. Those who are concerned about a friend or loved one who may be self harming can also contact the team for support. The website also contains information and resources that can be accessed 24 hours a day.
The GCC Public Health team also commission mental health awareness courses for young men and women in secondary schools and alternative provision schools in Gloucestershire. These courses aim to help young men and women develop emotional literacy so they are more able to discuss problems, develop skills to seek help and to identify ways to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
We are also working on a new website providing wellbeing information for those who are in crisis and those who are concerned about someone who may be in crisis, along with signposting information on local and national sources of support. The website will also contain useful resources for GSPP partners including social media ‘assets’ (posters, graphics, leaflets etc.) and information to use when raising awareness to their audiences.
What are your current priorities?
Our current priorities include:
- Engaging with the contributing partners, review the process for completing the last audit to improve where possible and seek out new partners who can provide valuable information on the confirmed deaths by suicide for the next audit.
- Continue to engage and work with local media outlets to raise awareness, educate the public on the signs to look for, provide timely information about support that is available and enforce the message that suicide is preventable to help reduce the stigma surrounding suicide.
- To review the process for timely surveillance of deaths by suicide and intervene in potential clusters and continue this important piece of work.
- Follow national strategy changes and updates, especially in light of the recent appointment of Minister for Suicide Prevention.
- To develop a suicide bereavement support service for those affected in the county.
- To update and continue to deliver the Action Plan following the last audit.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Financial resources – with a reducing budget the Public Mental Health team need to continue to identify innovative ways to further the good work on reducing suicides in the county and use its position to influence partners and community groups to understand the need for suicide prevention strategies and implement practical evidence-based policies and protocols.
Keeping people engaged – it’s often not core business for everyone.
Influencing the wider determinants - e.g. employment.