top of page

National Suicide Prevention Alliance Conference at the Kia Oval, London 31st January

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

Professor Louis Appleby,Chair

National Suicide Prevention

Strategy Advisory Group.

Feedback Notes.

The conference started with registration and copious amounts of tea, coffee, freshly squeezed fruit juice with a choice of toast, bacon butties and pancakes with maple syrup, cake and Danish pastries.

10.10 First Session: Reflections on the national strategy: an important year for suicide prevention.

1 Suicide records have been kept since 1861.

2 Records show a 6% fall in suicide 2016.

3 In 2017 records show a 5% fall in male but an 8% rise in female suicides.

4 Building trade suicides have doubled in the last few years.

5 Building trades now have the highest incidences of recorded suicides with Agricultural closely behind in second place.

6 Prison suicides have fallen but self-harm is on the increase.

7 Mental ward inpatient suicides have fallen, all credit to Mental Health Staff.

8 150 under 20’s suicides in 2017

9 There has been a significant rise in suicide of youngsters in their late teens.

10 Highest rates of suicide in men in their mid-40’s and the over 85’s.

11 70% of all suicides: no warning, out of the blue.

10.40 Second Session: Suicide Prevention: the importance of psychological factors.

Professor Rory O’Connor, Director of the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory, University of Glasgow. (Visit for research paper on Cortisol)

Scottish Well-being study: data collated from suicide notes.

There are 6000 suicidal deaths per annum. Behind every suicide death is a tragedy.

Most young people not receiving help and support for mental health issues.

Major understanding of suicidal thoughts:

a entrapment, no escape

b impulsivity

c capability

d having a means

Research on those with suicidal thoughts to suicide attempts, has found that the cortisol system has broken down, resulting in a heightened pain threshold, fearlessness to pain and fearless of death. Factors that may have contributed to lower cortisol may have been brought on by childhood trauma, such as a family death, sexual abuse, bullying.

The natural instinct when in danger is to “fight or flight” and this fear increases cortisol levels.

“Cortisol, a steroid hormone, helps control blood sugar levels and regulates metabolism, helps reduce inflammation and assists with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure. All of these functions make cortisol a crucial hormone to protect health and well-being.”

11.10 Workshop 1: Men and Suicide: reaching high risk groups beyond healthcare settings.

Keith Waters, Director of the Centre for Self-harm and Suicide Prevention Research

Jennifer Ness, Research Project Manager, Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust.

Barriers to reaching high risk groups out in the community

1 Isolation, bereaved, elderly.

2 Not part of the community, shy.

3 Housebound, disabled.

4 Farming community.

Public Survey shows that 60% of 25-34 year olds had suicidal thoughts.

30% spoke to no-one whereas 40% sought help from relatives and/or friends.

Glyn Evans, Regional Director, The Farming Community Network, and Karen Ellis, Volunteer, are sitting on the back row following the Workshop presentation.

1 There are 125,000 farming employees in UK

2 16% are women

3 68 suicidal deaths a year of farmers and related trades

4 In 2016 there were 27 recorded “farmer accidental deaths”

5 Some suicide deaths are not recorded as farmers.

6 National FCN helpline for farmers

7 Farmers face an uncertain future with Brexit.

8 They face isolation, volatile milk prices, delayed BPS payments,

12.15 Third Session: The role of employers: experiences of suicide prevention in the workplace.

Dr Paul Litchfield, Chief Medical Officer, BT Group plc

2008 Recession: drop in share price, housing market collapsed and consumer need dropped therefore little work for “open reach” with no overtime and redundancies. The impact on staff was significant, suicide rates doubled. People took lives on BT premises because high buildings and long drops gave them the opportunity to do so. This made suicide prevention a priority.

Senior Management consulted with Samaritans to bring issues out into the open; they talked about mental health issues and suicide in particular. They drew up guidelines for line managers with desk aids to help managers support staff with mental health issues. They provide HR support and set up peer support network training to help staff understand the issues. Mental health is a business issue and talking about it makes it normal.

Joscelyne Shaw, Executive Director, Mates in Mind (mental health and wellbeing in construction)

The construction industry has 3.7% higher cases of recorded suicides and is now higher than any other industry. Mental Health is a taboo within the construction business.

Good safety = good business but what about health and mental health.

The aim of Mates in Mind:

1 Help raise awareness of mental issues.

2 Address the stigma of poor mental health.

3 Improve positive mental wellbeing in the UK construction industry.

Achieved through

1 Guidance and Support

2 Awareness and Education

3 Research and Development

4 Communication

5 Shared repository of campaign material

6 Help small and medium organisations overcome isolation in a holistic approach.

12.50 Fourth Session; Engagement of people with personal experience of suicide – the Australian model. Bronwen Edwards, Founder and CEO, Roses in the Ocean.

Bronwen’s brother Mark had taken his own life 31st August 2008. He was a successful airline pilot.

It left her and her two children then aged three and five, devastated. One day to help make sense of the situation they visited the beach to recall all the happy times they had spent there together and decided to throw roses in the ocean in memory of Mark.

Bronwen and several other survivors formed a support group “Roses in the Ocean” and set about “getting to know who’s who in the zoo” of the 31 Primary Health Care networks across Australia. The authorities were afraid at first and wondered what they were going to do with them. They are now included in policy making, working with different cultural and minority groups, building a communities safety net that helps prevent suicide. The Black Dog institute is collating data.

The Strategic Plan is to

A improve quality of life

B improve governance

C improve infrastructure

The Vision is to save lives.

Reduce emotional pain following a suicide and to empower people to live.

13.15 Fifth session: Government action on suicide prevention; reaching the 10% target by 2021

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care: The Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Conservative.

Firstly Jeremy thanked Louis Appleby for supplying him with the data surrounding suicide and recognises that suicide is the litmus test for how well they are doing on mental health.

Need to recruit 19,000 more staff in Mental Health Care.

Government putting in an extra £25 million into MH Care.

Vision ZERO Suicide for all receiving MH care.

ZERO in patient suicide and post discharge suicides.

When improving mental health patient care need to look at improving staff mental health care, “care for the carers”

1 Need a much better and much quicker system to collate

“real time” suicide data across the UK.

2 Mental Health to provide a specific suicide plan for all