The Thames Valley Suicide Prevention Conference was held in Reading last Thursday. The programme was interesting and thought provoking – the take away message being that we all have a role in supporting people (friends, family, colleagues and clients) so they can talk about how they are feeling and seek appropriate support.
Lorna Fraser from the Samaritans Media Unit spoke about the need for sensitive reporting of suicide. She gave clear evidence of increases in deaths by suicide following some inappropriate reporting. Guidelines are given on media reporting but are not always followed. We were told that the Samaritans Media Unit advises television and programme makers who are considering a storyline about suicide.
Lucy Connor from Victim Support spoke about a pilot service in Berkshire for people bereaved by suicide. The service can offer practical and emotional support as well as advocacy for inquests, legal issues, health and benefits issues. The service is available by referral from the police and GPs.
We heard about the links between debt, poor health and suicide. Ann Dally (Citizens Advice and Samaritans) advocates the need for a debtor-centred approach to debt management, where the whole circumstances of the person are considered including their mental wellbeing. Councillor Ellie Emberson then updated us on the RBC Council Tax Protocol on debt collection.
One of the workshops was focused on workplace wellbeing and the effect of suicide on people at work. We were taken through a report Thriving at Work, which recommends ‘mental health core standards’ that all employers can adopt to better support the mental health of their staff. Mind has followed this up with some next steps for employers. It’s well worth looking at this guidance in the context of your own workplaces and we will explore it further at the next Voluntary Sector Wellbeing Forum on December 12 2019 (details to follow).
Dr David McCartney shared his personal experience when his brother Jonathan took his own life. Jonathan was a lawyer in the field of Intellectual Property. Jonathan’s Voice was set up by his family with the purpose of working with organisations and individuals to promote mental wellbeing in the workplace and beyond.
A full day with a big reminder that we all need to look after ourselves, look out for our work colleagues, and support our family and friends.