There was a great turnout for the latest Wellbeing Forum for Reading’s voluntary and community sector. Nearly 40 people came together to discuss two key priorities for the health and wellbeing of people in Reading, reducing loneliness and isolation and reducing deaths by suicide.
We heard from Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Chair of Reading’s Health and Wellbeing Board about the importance of partnership working to achieve the best outcomes for people in Reading. “We are committed to listening to and working with the voluntary and community sector”.
Jo Hawthorn, the Council’s Head of Commissioning, Wellbeing and Improvement, gave a presentation on Reducing Loneliness and Isolation, one of 8 priorities in Reading’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy (HWS). Both social isolation and loneliness have been associated with a range of physical and emotional health problems, e.g. high blood pressure, depression and coronary heart disease. Anyone can be at risk of loneliness, at any age. Different risk factors are more relevant to different groups.
At the Forum, we started mapping all the activities organised by voluntary and community groups which encourage people to come together, make connections and reduce their isolation. We will build on these maps as part of on-going discussions with Reading Bororugh Council and other partners, so we have a better understanding of where the gaps are and where to target resources at a neighbourhood level.
Reducing deaths by suicide is another priority in Reading’s HWS. “Every death by suicide is an individual tragedy and can have a devastating effect on families, on communities and others affected by how the life was lost”
Sophie Walters, Director of Reading Samaritans, gave some national statistics about deaths by suicide and what Reading Samaritans is doing to locally.
- There were 6,188 suicides registered in the UK in 2015. That’s 10.9 per 100,000.
- In 2015, UK male suicide rate decreased whilst female rate increased to its highest rate in a decade.
- Across all broad age groups, the rate for males was around 3 times higher than females
- The highest suicide rate in the UK in 2015 was for men aged 45-49 at 22.3 per 100,000
Reading Samaritans offer outreach work with Network Rail, have a regular presence in A&E and work in partnership with Reading College and Reading Pride, schools etc. to raise awareness around suicide risks and prevention. They are asking RBC to appoint a councillor on the Health & Wellbeing Board to lead on the Berkshire-wide Suicide Reduction Strategy and local action plan.
We also heard from the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust about the work they are doing with schools and colleges.
“Teachers, doctors, employers, university staff – we reach the people who can spot when someone might be in trouble. Our training gives them the confidence to open a conversation and give vital first-line support. We talk direct to young people too, giving them the tools they need to stay mentally well.” Have a look at their website