Agenda item - Suicide Prevention

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Agenda item

Suicide Prevention

Report of the Acting Director of Public Health on city partnership planning for suicide prevention (copy attached), including a briefing from Grassroots and a copy of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan.  


There will be a joint presentation from the council’s Public Health team, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Grassroots, a local community organisation.


7.1       This item was introduced by Clare Mitchison (Public Health), Miranda Frost (Grassroots Suicide Prevention), and Kate Hunt (Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust: SPFT).


7.2       Clare Mitchison told the committee that Brighton & Hove has a historically high suicide rate, although recent years have seen a reduction in the number of suicides. However, given the relatively small numbers of suicides annually, caution must be taken in interpreting trends in local suicide statistics.


7.3       Analysis of local suicide data over time shows a clear link between suicide and deprivation. Suicides that take place in public spaces tend to cluster around the seafront, but overall there is no particular geographical pattern to city suicides.


7.4       As is the case nationally, men in Brighton & Hove are far more likely than women to die by suicide (although they are not necessarily more likely to attempt suicide). Suicide rates are highest amongst middle-aged men, both nationally and locally. Redundancy and/or relationship break-up are key factors in making this group more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts.


7.5       Suicide prevention is a complex task. It includes preventative work, and support for people in crisis, as well as working to ensure that there are physical measures in place to deter suicide attempts. The city has a partnership Suicide Prevention Strategy Group which publishes an annual Action Plan.


7.6       Miranda Frost told members that suicide is a community health problem. Grassroots is working towards making Brighton & Hove a ‘Suicide Safer City’ by implementing a number of community wide suicide prevention activities following the 9 pillars that define a suicide safer community as laid out by Living Works, an international suicide prevention organisation Grassroots also delivers suicide prevention training to professionals, organisations and the general public in Brighton & Hove, Sussex and other areas of England. The majority of this is funded via contracts from Public Health / Local Authority and some is commissioned outside of contracts or supported by community fundraising.


7.7       Kate Hunt told the committee that suicide is one of SPFT’s four Quality priorities for 2016/17. The trust is rolling-out training on suicide risk assessment to staff, and is also focusing on carer engagement and support.


7.8       In response to a question from Cllr Deane on the impact of recessionary pressures and of benefit reductions, members were told that these could increase suicide rates. It was important that, where public sector funding for suicide prevention work might be reducing, an equivalent level of community support was identified to compensate.


7.9       In answer to a query from Cllr Deane on work with people in prison and with former prisoners, the committee was told that there was some help available both in prison and subsequent to release, although this group of people could be difficult to reach.


7.10    In response to a question from Cllr Taylor on where ultimate responsibility for suicide prevention lay, the committee was informed that the Health & Wellbeing Board (HWB) is ultimately in charge of co-ordinating this work across the city. As an NHS trust, SPFT is accountable to its regulators (i.e. the CQC).


7.11    Cllr Allen told members that he was very concerned with young people’s ability to access Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), with the complexity of CAMHS services, with the speed that CAMHS responded to requests for help, and with the provision of services for younger children. He also queried why no representative from Community CAMHS had attended the Suicide Prevention Partnership meetings. Clare Mitchison confirmed that Community CAMHS were invited to attend meetings and did engage with suicide prevention work via the Schools Programme. Kate Hunt noted that it was extremely rare for younger children (i.e. under eight) to attempt suicide, so resources were targeted at children older than this. Miranda Frost told members that there are good materials available to support parents and offered to provide some examples.


7.12    Cllr O’Quinn stated that she was particularly concerned with the 16-18 year olds, especially regarding exam stress and the impact of social media. Kate Hunt agreed that this is a key group, and noted that incidents of self-harm amongst teenagers are known to be under-reported.


7.13    In response to questions from Cllr Peltzer-Dunn on why the suicide rate has seemingly fallen more rapidly in recent years, Clare Mitchison told the committee that it was not really possible to link the local suicide rate to the success or failure of particular interventions, though it is believed that the local Suicide Prevention Action Plan contributes to a reduction in the rate. Locally, female suicide rates have fallen more sharply than male rates. It is uncertain why this is so, and it runs counter to national trends. Cllr Peltzer-Dunn noted that he was concerned with the persistently high levels of male suicide locally.


7.14    A member of the Youth Council told members that he thought having Counsellors in schools was key to helping young people who may be self-harming or experiencing suicidal thoughts. Miranda Frost agreed, noting that local schools have a good record in terms of providing counselling services. Kate Hunt added that self-harm was a growing issue in schools and is more common among young people. Self-harm may be an expression of distress rather than an indication of suicidal intention, although there is a strong relationship between completed suicide and previous self-harming behaviour. 


7.15    Cllr Cattell queried whether a reliance on social-media based suicide prevention tools could be problematic given the higher prevalence of suicide amongst the most deprived. Miranda Frost agreed and stressed that Grassroots also provides lots of information in hard copy form.


7.16    The Chair thanked all the presenters for their contributions.



Supporting documents:


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