Suicide Prevention Day: Call for rural communities to be made a priority in mental health fight

On World Suicide Prevention Day we look at how Norfolk is preparing for the impact of lockdown.

On World Suicide Prevention Day we look at how Norfolk is preparing for the impact of lockdown. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getting to people at risk of suicide in rural communities before they are in crisis has been identified as a top priority, experts say.

As organisations and individuals today mark World Suicide Prevention Day, people in Norfolk are assessing the impact of coronavirus on mental health - and working out how to help.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were 89 suicides in the county in 2019, 17.6pc lower than the 118 deaths recorded in 2018 - the second highest suicide rate in the country.

Nationally, there was an increase of 5.8pc compared to the previous year, with men aged between 45 and 49 the group that remained at the highest risk.

Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of Samaritans, has called for support for those with pre-existing mental health conditions, young people and less well-off middle-aged men, before they reach crisis point.

Ruth Sutherland, CEO of Samaritans. Picture: Samaritans

Ruth Sutherland, CEO of Samaritans. Picture: Samaritans - Credit: Archant

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The area of Norfolk with the most recorded suicide deaths was West Norfolk which reported 22 deaths in 2019, two more than the previous year. North Norfolk also reported one more death than in 2018.

There was a decrease in the number of cases in five areas - Breckland, Broadland, Great Yarmouth, Norwich and South Norfolk.

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Norfolk County Council has invested more than £1m to support mental health and suicide prevention since 2018, including setting up a countywide service run by Norwich based Menscraft, which promotes a suicide prevention programme by engaging men to take part in activities.

Tim Allard, the charity’s development manager and director, said one of the issues faced was the time between disclosing problems and receiving treatment.

Jade Phipps has spoken of being a suicide survivor following the death of her brother Daniel in Augu

Jade Phipps has spoken of being a suicide survivor following the death of her brother Daniel in August 2018. Picture: Jade Phipps - Credit: Archant

He said: “We are supporting tens of men who are not in a point of crisis. They have gone to their GP for anxiety and have disclosed that they are not feeling happy.

“When a man has gone to a professional and nothing has happened that could be quite demoralising and that is the time the experience of hopelessness increases, We are supporting them with positive activities and help them with moving away from suicidal ideas.” He said following the rise in suicides involving young women, Norfolk was also looking at how a service like Menscraft could be adapted for women.

Norfolk public health has also commissioned a further roll out of the Norfolk Community Advice Network (NCAN) referral system to prevent “gaps in the system” when people look to access support.

Liz Howlett, NSFT’s suicide prevention lead, said: “Our aim is to work together with partners to raise awareness of suicide, give people the confidence to approach someone if they are concerned about their behaviour and make sure that everyone knows where to go for help if they need it.

Liz Howlett, NSFT’s suicide prevention lead. Picture: NSFT

Liz Howlett, NSFT’s suicide prevention lead. Picture: NSFT - Credit: Archant

“Statistics show that around 70pc of people who take their own life will not have tried to access mental health support, so it is vital to work together within our communities to gain a greater understanding of the issues surrounding suicidal thoughts and behaviours.”

Ms Sutherland said the rise should not be attributed to the pandemic, as the data for those deaths registered in early 2020 were at inquests heard before the pandemic began.

She said: “It is not inevitable that suicide rates will go up as a result of coronavirus, but we know that the pandemic is impacting on lots of people’s lives and exacerbating some known risk factors for suicide for some people who are already vulnerable.”

Jade Phipps, from Bradwell, and her family were left raw following the death of her brother Daniel in August 2018. Mr Phipps, 32, worked as an art teacher in Brighton and was described by his sister as the “most caring, gentle and intelligent person”.

Miss Phipps said: “My loss is still quite raw and even now it’s quite clear that I haven’t processed it, but that is the way of a complicated grief such as suicide loss. The shock resides with you for I’d say almost a year.

“Because myself and Daniel were very close, we spoke daily/weekly and were very open with each other about everything, the shock was greater in the sense of age and closeness.

Everything that happens after losing someone in that way is very surreal.”

Since the last published data around suicide rates, the standard of proof used by coroners to determine whether a death was caused by suicide was lowered.

? If you need help and support, call Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline 0808 196 3494 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours 7 days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple & Android.

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