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Additional support for men at risk of suicide

Men in Norfolk who feel suicidal are now being offered additional support before they are seen by specialists from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), as part of a pioneering initiative designed to reduce the number of men who take their own lives.

The multi-agency project, led by MensCraft, has seen Ed Roberts (pictured)​ appointed as a Prevention and Positive Activities Co-ordinator to work with vulnerable men in the greater Norwich area. It comes following a successful bid for national suicide prevention funding made by Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability Transformation Partnership and managed by Norfolk County Council Public Health.

Ed works alongside a mental health nurse and receives referrals via the single point of access from GPs or NSFT’s Escalation and Avoidance Team. He will offer initial support within 48 hours until the patient is seen by the Community Mental Health Team which, in emergency cases, must take place within 120 hours.

The project gives men the chance to talk about how they are feeling, as well as opportunities take part in groups or social activities. Where appropriate, they will also be signposted to other sources of support, such as organisations which can help with debt, homelessness or drug or alcohol problems.

“The job gives me a great opportunity to support hard-to-reach people and those who are vulnerable and in need,” said Ed, who has also worked as a youth worker, teacher and a prison librarian, and has supported more than 12 men so far. “It is one of the best jobs I have ever done and I’m really enjoying it so far.

“Men can find it really hard to communicate. I’m not a clinician so am not there to help them find solutions, but instead offer them the space to talk about how they are feeling so that they can feel understood and heard. Just being there can be massive and can make a real difference, especially to someone who is feeling isolated and alone.

“When I first meet the patient, I’ll ask him to tell me his story and we work together to develop a safety plan. I will also do what I can to alleviate his stress in the short term to make him safer while opening up other sources of support which could benefit him.

“If I have any additional concerns, I can also raise these with the appropriate NSFT team so that he can get the right help to keep him safe and begin his recovery.”

Liz Howlett, Suicide Reduction Plan Implementation Lead with NSFT, said: “Our teams have a duty to see emergency referrals within 120 hours and, on many occasions, are able to arrange an appointment more quickly. However, men can feel very vulnerable while they wait to receive that support, which is why Ed’s role is so important.

“By offering them a listening ear and signposting them to other services, he can show them that they are not alone while offering vital reassurance that there are people out there who can help.”

Cllr Bill Borrett, from Norfolk County Council, said: “I am really pleased to see Ed Roberts appointed to this important post. I hope that it will make a difference to the lives of men who find it difficult to open up and talk about the things that are worrying them, and by having access to a range of activities specifically for men it can make all the difference as it encourages them to talk openly. Ed will also be able to support those men with other identified needs to access appropriate and timely support more quickly.”

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