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.

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