Agenda item

Update on Suicide Prevention

To receive an update on Suicide Prevention. (20 mins)


Rhosyn Harris and Manawar Jan-Khan, Public Health, updated Members on suicide prevention and support for those bereaved by suicide.


During the discussion of this item the following points were made:


·         There were approximately 4,500 suicides per year in England.

·         There were specific groups of people at higher risk and specific risk factors that increased the risk of suicide.  Men were at greater risk and in particular men aged 30-50.  Those with mental health issues, who suffered from substance abuse, had long term conditions or suffered from chronic pain were also at greater risk of suicide.  In addition those who had experienced a major life event such as bereavement or unemployment were at increased risk.

·         Preventing suicide was achievable and restricting access to the means for suicide worked.

·         Members were advised that supporting people bereaved by suicide and responsible media reporting was critical.

·         In 2012 ‘Preventing Suicide in England’ had been published.  It had contained 4 key action areas; every local area to produce a multi-agency suicide prevention plan; better targeting of suicide prevention in high risk groups including self-harm prevention, improving bereavement by suicide and support; and improving data at national and local levels.  A Berkshire wide Suicide Prevention Plan had been produced.

·         The Wokingham Action Plan was in line with the Strategy and contained two core elements around suicide prevention and bereavement support.

·         With regards to suicide prevention, Members were informed that there was an E-learning module that Council staff could undertake to raise awareness of suicide prevention.  Public health were promoting the wider use of this by partners.  In addition the Council’s webpage contained a section on suicide prevention.  Members were provided with cards and leaflets which were designed to raise awareness.

·         The Committee was informed of the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), a support group for those bereaved by suicide.  There were 60 members in the Borough.

·         Manawar Jan-Khan commented that a focus group had been held in June with SOBS to identify gaps in service and support provided to those bereaved by suicide.  Members were informed that the families of those who had completed suicide at home were responsible for cleaning the home after the event. 

·         Members were informed of an advocacy pilot and evaluation. 

·         The Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West footprint had received funding to roll out bereavement support services across the area.

·         Nationally, localities had been identified to receive funding for real time surveillance.  Thames Valley Police had a system in place under which an alert was issued when a death was suspected to be as a result of suicide.  This helped to identify any potential patterns at an earlier stage.  Councillor Loyes asked how patterns could be identified from small figures. 

·         Rhosyn Harris commented that there was a lag in data reporting.  Only the Coroner could confirm a suicide, which could take some time.  Between 2015-2017 there had been 8.1 suicides per 100,000 people, within the Borough, which was similar to the national average.  This equated to approximately 12 deaths by suicide per year.

·         A Berkshire wide suicide audit had been carried out and had looked at 2014-2018.  The results were due shortly.  Members were informed that 91% of deaths identified as suicide had been highlighted through the real time information provided by the Police.  Local patterns generally reflected national patterns.  In other areas a correlation was seen with deprivation levels but this was not the case with the Borough.

·         Rhosyn Harris outlined some of the next steps that would be taken including a multi-agency review and updates of action plans during February and March 2019 and exploring support for young people and self-harm. 

·         With regards to support for those bereaved by suicide, Councillor Soane asked what support was provided for different age groups, particularly small children.  Manawar Jan-Khan stated that SOBS worked with those over 18 years old and that there was a gap in services for young people.  He was speaking at a school assembly about suicide prevention in the near future and would be working with a local youth group to develop something for younger people bereaved by suicide.  The young person’s group could possibly be mentored by the adult SOBS group.

·         Councillor Richards asked if the number of people thinking of completing suicide was monitored and if so how.  Rhosyn Harris stated that one of the main messages for supporting those at risk of suicide was to talk to them and start a conversation.  People needed to be aware of signs of distress.

·         Members were informed that self-harming was a risk factor for suicide.  Locally self-harm rates amongst young people were rising.  Councillor Miall asked about self-harm amongst older people and the age range of young people who self-harmed.  Rhosyn Harris commented that the number of young people who self-harmed was a nationally reported indicator.  The age range monitored was 10-24 years old.

·         Councillor Jones asked how suicide levels in the Borough compared with other Berkshire authorities and whether there was any shared learning between areas regarding prevention.  Rhosyn Harris stated that rates were not statistically different.  A Berkshire wide Suicide Prevention Group did share information but there were different risks in different areas, such as high speed rail. 




1)         Rhosyn Harris and Manawar Jan-Khan be thanked for their presentation;


2)         the update on suicide prevention be noted.

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