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Preventing suicide and reducing harm – a universal challenge, a local community-based plan

Date: 9 September 2020
Author: Cllr Piers Allen

Suicide is a major issue for society and a leading cause of years of life lost. There were over 6500 deaths from suicide registered in the UK in 2018 and for every person who dies at least 20 people are affected. The latest data for Richmond shows that from 2012-14 to 2017-19, suicide rates have risen steadily from 5.5 per 100,000 to 9.2 per 100,000.

Suicide data and surveillance continues to highlight three key risk groups that need to be targeted due to their increased risk of suicide:

  • People with pre-existing mental health conditions
  • Young people who self-harm, particularly women under the age of 25
  • Middle-aged men who are less well off

However, this is far from the whole story and as someone whose family has been directly affected by suicide, I know the heart-loss and devastation this can wreak in families and in our communities. I am therefore pleased to have the opportunity to mark World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), on 10 September – organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the purpose of this day is to raise awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented.

Preventing suicide is achievable. The delivery of a comprehensive strategy has been shown to be effective in reducing deaths by suicide through interventions that build community resilience and target groups of people at heightened risk of suicide.

Here in Richmond, we adopted in October last year a Richmond Suicide and Self-harm Prevention Strategy which sets out a range of objectives to reduce the risk of self-harm and suicide. The existing action plan provides a whole system approach across the life-course and identifies key objectives to reduce mental health related morbidity  – our year one actions have included developing a community action plan, mental-health first aid and suicide prevention training to schools, appointing a bereavement liaison officer, a self-harm nurse for children and young people and a 24/7 Mental Health Support and Emergency Line run by our mental health trust. Richmond MIND have also set up a new Journey Recovery Hub Service - this will eventually be a local drop-in service, but for now (under Covid-19 safety restrictions) is operating on the basis of phoning ahead to book a slot.

A number of dedicated resources are available as listed below, but everyone can make a contribution in preventing suicide and I would particularly recommend the online suicide awareness training Step 3 module from the Zero Suicide Alliance, which through 20-minutes of your time could literally save a life. The introductory 5-10 minute Step Up module particularly highlights the effects that social isolation may have for some people adjusting to the significant changes and ‘new normal’ following the first wave of coronavirus. 

Richmond Resources

The Council website provides links to the resources listed above and additional resources.

Updated: 07 October 2021