We need to do more to support people at risk of suicide

Patients at risk of suicide must be given more support and care by the NHS, a new report recommends.

The study, launched to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day, found there was ‘poor support’ for patients with substance abuse problems and a lack of communication with patients’ families.

Dr Alice Oates, author of the report, said: ‘Sadly many of the clinical findings in this report will be familiar to those working in mental health.’

An NHS study has found that patients at risk of suicide must be given more support (Picture: Getty Images)

She added: ‘We found that, generally, there was poor support for those with substance misuse problems, inadequate communication with patients and families, and a lack of a range of services to support individuals.

‘The quality of risk assessments, therapeutic observation and subsequent serious incident investigations conducted by some trusts needs improvement.

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‘Finally, following a death, the support offered to both families and staff involved was variable.’

The study, conducted by NHS Resolution looked at 101 deaths by suicide between 2010 and 2017 and analysed 25 claims made against the NHS relating to non-fatal suicide attempts.

It examined some of the factors that contribute to suicide claims and the quality of investigations following such incidents.

As a result, NHS Resolution said it has made nine recommendations for NHS trusts and national bodies to highlight potential learning for those delivering mental health services in England.

The report looked at 101 deaths occurring between 2010 and 2017 and analysed 25 claims relating to non-fatal suicide attempts (Picture: Getty Images)

Dr Adrian James, registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: ‘Suicide is a tragedy for the individual who takes their life and has a lasting impact on family, friends and those who have provided care.

‘The report highlights some important areas for attention that could help to reduce suicides. The focus on substance misuse is welcomed.

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‘There is more to be learned from the deaths of those in contact with services and the college is currently leading a piece of work on developing a tool and process to maximise learning.’

The report was launched to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day, which takes place annually on September 10.

It also comes as more than 130 well-known figures signed a letter urging the media to change the way they report on suicide.

Stephen Fry is one of 130 famous figures to have signed the letter (Picture: Getty Images)

Stephen Fry, Lauren Laverne, and Zoe Ball have all backed the movement, which was put together by journalist Bryony Gordon and Labour MP Luciana Berger.

The campaigners praised positive changes to the way suicide is reported, but said there was still much to do to ‘educate the public’, ‘tackle taboos’ and ‘break down stereotypes’.

It recommended journalists try not to ‘speculate’ over the cause of someone’s suicide, as ‘it is impossible to say with any certainty why someone takes their own life’.

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The Samaritans and mental-health charity Mind have also backed the letter, which proposed publications stop saying ‘commit suicide’ and use phrases such as ‘died by suicide’ instead.

‘As a journalist I have seen for myself the positive impact that the media can have on the nation’s mental health,’ Ms Gordon said of the letter over the weekend.

‘Words are powerful, and we can all make a difference through small changes.’


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