World Suicide Prevention Day 2012

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. This is a day to raise awareness and reflect on the causes of suicide and way that services and support is available or not to those who may be considering suicide.

While it is not difficult to approach the notion that suicide prevention is something that should be promoted, it is hard, at least in my mind, to detach this thought from the need for services to be provided – not just in specific mental health sectors but in broader terms because while it is easy to categorise ‘suicide prevention’ as a specific mental health need, there are those who may choose to take action to end their own lives who do not have what might be categorised as mental health problems.

So what would broader suicide prevention services look like? I think there is clearly a case for formal support (but then, I would say that) through supportive and longer term work through mental health systems. We are struggling in the NHS Community Mental Health Teams at the moment. We aren’t equipped to work with anything except the most acute needs due to decreasing funding. Fancy talk about policy pushes towards prevention mean very little in frontline posts away from Whitehall where these documents are drafted.

Waiting lists for talking therapies can be extensive and the choices between types of therapies (and for that matter, particular therapists) can be limited.

While I would argue (again, I would really) that there are practitioners who want to provide good services, it is becoming more difficult in a climate of cuts and those who pretend otherwise in the government are fooling themselves. Support has to allow time and therapeutic relationships to develop in order to understand what is needed and how. Support has to be provided extensively to family members and friends who support and care for those who have mental health needs in order to reinforce informal support networks. Personal budgets can help but only if they are implemented flexibly and with time and care rather than sped through to meet increasingly harshly imposed local authority and central government ‘targets’ and tick boxes.

My work should always be about people as individuals with wholly different needs, wishes, desires and aspirations but it feels as if it is increasingly turning into a ‘tick box’ culture in mental health services. That is wrong and it only serves to remove an element of humanity from a system that so desperately needs it.

Sometimes, indeed, often, it is not about traditional ‘formal’ services as much as promoting more social interaction and quality networking structures which can thrive  (and are often better) as peer based groups.  We have greater tools now to create different layers of social interactions now – we can build communities on the basis of interests as well as geography through and combat isolation and loneliness. If a shared interest in Dr Who or football or coffee can create communities around them, we are on the cusp of making it easier to find engaging and accepting communities to be a part of.

Perhaps though, with the greater opportunities come greater pressures to ‘find groups’ or to ‘be a certain way’. I am generally an advocate of the positive power of the internet and new communication forms to promote greater support networks and social interaction but there has been a rise in more public bullying and targeting which is the negative side of living life in the open.  I think a greater understanding of the role of those who use these new platforms negatively and to gain a greater platform for negative and unpleasant outlets has to be another focus. Why do people ‘troll’? What are the needs of the bully and what are they missing in terms of their social support in order to use negative outlets to target others?

There are many ways we can and should be looking at suicide prevention but while it remains a very important issue in mental health services, it is not an issue exclusively for mental health services.

We can all take a role in being more open, kinder and more understanding of the needs of others – we, collectively, are not able to prevent all suicide – but there has to be a wider awareness of a different paths to take – whether  formal or informal routes, they all need shoring up.

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6 Responses to “World Suicide Prevention Day 2012”

  1. Preventing suicide? WHY?
    Suicide is the ultimate expression of a person’s autonomy: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/world-suicide-prevention-day-on-10-september/ That courage should be applauded.

  2. Thank you for this post. It feels measured and wise. Having lost my father to suicide and other kind, good and sensitive friends. i want to thank you for talking about this. Iapplaud the work of people in the Samaritans and other support organisations, as well as those nurturing people who work in the world of mental health.

    There must be a real struggle with compassion fatigue for workers and it’s good to see some organisations focusing on the value of Mindfulness to support their staff. I applaud your comment that people providing support should “see people as individuals with wholly different needs, wishes, desires and aspirations” When we look beyond the label of mental distress and engage with the person first and connect with them, holding them and recognising their pain as real, then we can work together to find what it is that that works for them. ‘This too will pass.’ Yes, people do need connection; connection to those people, places, creatures and things that matter to them, and to groups of others with shared goals and enthusiasms. Recovery is possible when we see people as more the same than different. May we each offer an extra smile to some-one today, and do a kind deed expecting nothing in return.
    May people learn the joy of life as well as the disappointment. Thanks again.

  3. Revolting. Many people recover from suicidal episodes and reflect on their experiences as to what might have happened with a real sense of shock. The idea that suicide is the ultimate act of autonomy in the context of say a severe depressive illness shows a staggering degree of ignorance. Go on, piss off.

  4. Thanks for all your comments.

  5. I seldom comment, however i did a few searching and wound up here World Suicide Prevention Day 2012 The Not So Big Society. And I do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright. Is it only me or does it look like a few of the remarks appear like they are coming from brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are writing at additional online sites, I’d like to follow everything fresh you have to post. Could you list of all of your communal pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

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