NSPA Conference Local Action, National Impact

NSPA conference rallies suicide prevention campaigners to make every action count

The annual National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) conference brought together more than 230 delegates from suicide prevention organisations from all over the UK.

“We believe in engaging the whole range of society in talking about suicide,” said NSPA co-chair Brian Dow, of Rethink Mental Illness, opening the conference.

Delegates heard presentations from and took part in workshops with a wide range of experts in the field, focusing on how action locally can impact on suicide prevention nationally.

Suicide statistics for England in 2017 look likely to show a fall, according to the University of Manchester’s Professor Louis Appleby, who also recommended paying attention to long-term trends rather than focusing too much on figures for a single year.

Suicide numbers vary across England and there are variations within regions, with the North and South West currently having the highest rates, with Southern coastal areas and Norfolk having high rates too.

There has also been a small rise in suicides among young people. Their risk factors include bereavement, losing someone to suicide themselves, exam pressures and isolation. Internet use by young people is also a concern, with it being used in a variety of negative ways, but some positive ones too.

The conference also heard calls from Professor Appleby for self- harm to be monitored and tackled as it is also a predictor for suicide risk.

New research from Scotland looking at young people aged 18-34 has shown that childhood trauma has a major role in responses to stress, which can drive suicide attempts, according to Professor Rory O’Connor from the University of Glasgow.

He said this information can be used to put the right interventions in place to help prevent suicide in those who are affected.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt highlighted plans for zero suicide in NHS settings among people receiving specialist mental health care at the conference. Paying tribute to the commitment of members of the NSPA, who are working to prevent suicide across all sectors, he described suicide as ‘the litmus test of the extent of the improvement of care in every part of mental health’.

In response, Ruth Sutherland, Samaritans CEO and co-chair of the NSPA said, “Every suicide is a tragedy. Three times more people die by suicide than by road accidents and, of those, two thirds have had no contact with mental health services in the year before their death.

Suicide is complex and it’s everybody’s business. It is only by working together that we can prevent the families, friends and communities of more than 6,000 people a year in the UK being devastated by the loss of a loved one to suicide.”

Other speakers included Dr Paul Litchfield of BT Group, who talked about the policies the company has put in place to prevent suicide linked to restructuring, and Bronwen Edwards of the Australian organisation Roses in the Ocean, who has built up an influential suicide prevention network of people with lived experience that reaches from the grassroots to the centre of Government.

 Picture caption: (left to right) Bronwen Edwards, Joscelyne Shaw, Brian Dow, Dr Paul Litchfield

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