Monday, 19 December 2016

One in three suicide victims see their GP before taking their own life


One in three people who commit suicide are in contact with GP before death but are not given enough help, warns a damning health select committee report.

MPs said long delays for specialist and a failure to identify mental health problems meant too many people at risk of taking their life were not getting help.

The report also calls for more to be done to restrict access to potentially “harmful internet content" which could encourage people to take their own lives.

MPs said action was needed to bring down the "unacceptable" suicide rate.

“Approximately one third of people who end their lives by suicide are in contact with their GP preceding their death, but are not receiving specialist mental health services,” the report states.

“There are serious concerns about the ongoing long waits after referral from primary care to specialist services and we urge the Government to address in its suicide prevention strategy how this situation will be improved.”

It calls for a national drive to improve awareness of mental health difficulties and identify potential suicide risks.

Tory MP and committee chairwoman Sarah Wollaston said: "4,820 people are recorded as having died by suicide in England last year, but the true figure is likely to be higher.

"Suicide is preventable and much more can and should be done to support those at risk."

During hearings for the inquiry, it emerged that a team of anthropologists has been hired to try to prevent suicides at sensitive locations on the railways where disruptions can cause gridlock.

Network Rail has recruited the academics to study the communities around 32 such places.

The team will use on-the-ground investigative procedures to understand what it is about “cluster” locations that attracts suicide attempts, meaning preventative measures like fences and police patrols can be bolstered.

Their data is also intended to help create a smart map similar to those used by consumer analysts to try to predict where future suicide attempts will come from.

Currently, most suicide research is dominated by psychologists, who attempt to explain the phenomenon at an individual level, or by sociologists, who strive for societal explanations.

Network Rail’s new strategy, however, aims to profile communities near known high-risk locations and then actively look for other towns and villages that fit the model.

Ian Stevens, who runs the organisation's Suicide Prevention Programme, said: "We need to move away from thinking that fences are the be-all and end-all.

“All the prevention measures we could possibly have are in place at these stations, but unfortunately people still come and take their own life.

“We need to understand the communities around these spots.”

In 2015-16, 252 people took their own lives, or were suspected of having done so, on the railway network. This was 35 fewer than the previous year.

On average, each incident causes 2,000 minutes of train delays and drivers involved in suicides typically lose 29 working days as they recover.

The team has been trialling its methods at two locations with a high rate of suicide.

In December, its remit will be expanded to a further four or five, with a view to expanding further in the coming months.

Mr Stevens said that the data accumulated by Network Rail, which is updated daily, meant that staff were sometimes identifying areas with a high risk of suicide before local authorities, health services or charities.

“If local authorities don’t know there is a flow of people coming to the railway they cannot help,” he said. “We’re trying to help paint a picture.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Every death by suicide is a tragedy and devastating for families, friends and communities.

"We are investing almost £1 billion in providing mental health support in A&E and home based crisis care - and are currently updating our suicide prevention strategy, which we are confident will address many of the issues raised by the committee."

*** If you are feeling suicidal or self-harm you should immediate seek advice from Samaritans or call 116 123



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