Hertfordshire public health bosses draw up new suicide prevention strategy

Nationally the suicide rate in Hertfordshire is already reported to be lower than in other parts of the country

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 11:31 am
Updated Thursday, 17th December 2020, 11:34 am

Public health bosses in Hertfordshire have drawn-up a five-year strategy to cut suicide rates in the county.

The strategy is built around an ambition to make Hertfordshire ‘a county where no one ever gets to the point where they feel suicide is their only option’.

And on Wednesday, December 9, it was presented to the county council’s public health and prevention cabinet panel.

Hertfordshire public health bosses draw up new suicide prevention strategy

According to data presented to the panel, in the past three years (2017 to 2019) there were 270 people who took their own lives in Hertfordshire

And for each each one of those deaths there are believed to be 135 people who have been affected.

Nationally the suicide rate in Hertfordshire is already reported to be lower than in other parts of the country – with data from 2016-2018 suggesting the rate is 7.9 per 100,000 in Hertfordshire, compared to the England average of 9.6.

Nevertheless the new Hertfordshire strategy – which includes a number of priority actions – is designed to cut the number of deaths from suicide in the county to zero.

“Our vision remains to make Hertfordshire a county where no one ever gets to a point where they feel suicide is their only option,” it states.

“In practice, this means our ambition is for zero suicides. The ambition of zero suicides in Hertfordshire is consistent with the national suicide prevention strategy for England.”

‘Support for men’ will be among the strategy’s six priorities, with evidence suggesting that men are significantly more likely to take their own lives than women.

And this will aim to make men more aware of their mental health needs and how they can access support.

Also prioritised is ‘support for those who are bereaved by suicide’ – who are themselves more likely to take their own lives. And this will include work to help people to cope with their loss, as well as promoting the bereavement support that is available.

The need for support for children and young people is also identified; to build resilience and offer better access to services for those who have suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

And there is a focus on the need for training, as well as research, data collection and monitoring.

The strategy also highlights work to reduce access to means of suicide, such as increasing knowledge of high-risk locations and building stronger partnerships to tackle suicide prevention.

According to the council’s own audit, around a third (34.1 per cent) of the 270 who took their lives in Hertfordshire in 2017-19 were already ‘known’ to a mental health service.

And around a quarter( 25.2 per cent) had discussed mental health issues with a member of their GP practice in the four weeks before their death.

Meanwhile the strategy also acknowledges the increase in health and wellbeing issues due to Covid and to the increase in factors relating to suicide such as relationship issues, unemployment, debt and housing.

At the meeting councillors were told the county was not yet witnessing an impact on the number of suicides related to the pandemic.

But it was said that it was still too early to say what the ultimate impact on suicide rates would be – and that it would be monitored.

According to the strategy: “Hertfordshire will continue to review the evidence and analyse trends and patterns of suicidal behaviour in relation to Covid-19 and make changes to programme delivery where and when required.”

The report to the panel also catalogued the actions as a result of the last suicide prevention strategy – which ran from 2017 to 2021.

They included a kitemark for mental health support and wellbeing in schools; improved data collection; a journalists’ charter for sensitive reporting of suicide; ‘spot the signs’ awareness training; the ‘save a life’ app launch; a review of bereavement service; and support for the ‘just talk’ mental health campaign.