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. 

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