Suicide must be de-stigmatised and there should be more awareness if more deaths are to be prevented, an NHS expert told Cheshire East councillors.
Consultant nurse Mike Caulfield, who co-chairs the Cheshire and Wirral Suicide Prevention and Intervention Group, was informing the council’s scrutiny committee about the partnership’s suicide prevention strategy.
“It’s everyone’s job and responsibility to try and de-stigmatise it,” he told the meeting at Sandbach, adding the stigma associated with suicide was “a massive problem” and could stop people accessing help.
“The strapline, ‘It’s ok not to be ok’, is a massive thing,” he said.
Mr Caulfield told the committee it was important people were not afraid to ask somebody if they felt suicidal if they had concerns about them.
“What the evidence shows is you’re not going to do any more harm by asking,” he said.
The committee was told the aspiration was for Cheshire and Merseyside to be a region where all suicides were prevented but admitted: “It’s a big task because, sadly, there are still 5,000 people each year who take their own lives, but the aspiration is that they do not consider suicide as a solution to the difficulties they face, and people have hope for the future,” he said.
The strategy’s mission is around building individual and community resilience, supporting people in time of personal crisis, creating an environment where everyone who needed help knew where to get it and where it was accessible.
Support Mr Caulfield said it was important people who had lost family members and loved ones to suicide were supported “because it is felt postvention is prevention as well, because the data tells us that if you’re bereaved by suicide you’re two times more likely to die by suicide”.
Wilmslow councillor Coun Lata Anderson asked whether Mr Caulfield was working with police to crack down on internet sites that encouraged people to take their own lives.
Mr Caulfield said the Online Safety Bill “that’s trying to be passed through at the moment with a number of obstacles” would “hopefully” go some way to regulating such content.
He added: “There is a responsibility of the platforms to look at their content.”
Crewe councillor Joy Bratherton, who works in bereavement services, expressed concerns that even if someone reached out for help there was a waiting list because of cutbacks.
“The thing we’re not addressing is, if you’ve got an individual who is considering, or in a mindset to commit suicide or to try and commit suicide, there’s no easy answer to this other than ‘let’s get you some help’.
“I know personally that that help could be 18 months to two years down the line because the services have been cut to the bone in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and similar bodies,” she said.
Mr Caulfield said he “did not disagree” but added there were “excellent services” available such as the Hub of Hope, a database where people can put in a postcode and get a link to available local resources.
Hub of Hope is at hubofhope.co.uk.
• For practical, confidential suicide prevention help and advice, contact the Papyrus Hopeline UK on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039 967 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For help at times of mental crisis, call SANEline, 4.30pm to 10.30pm daily on 0300 304 7000. Mind offers free counselling, anger management, befriending and parent support, 01782 262 100 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm).
Out of hours mental health support is available in East Cheshire on 01625 505666.
The Access Team is the single point of contact 24/7 for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, for mental health assessments, crisis support, telephone contact or face-to-face support: call 0300 123 0907 (option one) or 07739 775202 if this number is unavailable.
To contact the Samaritans, call freephone 116 123.