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Dedicated suicide prevention lead appointed

World Suicide Prevention Day – 10 September

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has appointed a dedicated suicide prevention lead to work with service users, carers and partners to help to reduce the number of people who take their own lives.

Liz Howlett is responsible for driving the Trust’s five-year Suicide Prevention Strategy, which was approved earlier this year. As part of that work, she is meeting regularly with service users, families, carers and people who have been bereaved to see whether any further support could be put in place.

The announcement comes in the run up to World Suicide Prevention Day, which takes place on 10 September and is arranged by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health.

A former team leader with NSFT’s Children, Families and Young People’s services in Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Liz applied for the role after seeing firsthand the impact of suicide on patients, relatives and healthcare staff.

Her initial work includes further strengthening NSFT’s relationships with partners, such as Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils and third sector organisations, so that every organisation can work together to learn from incidents and share best practice.

She will then review the training which staff receive and explore whether there are areas where service users are at more risk of taking their own life to see what, if anything, could be done differently.

Liz’s role also includes celebrating good practice across the Trust and sharing any learning with others.

“Throughout my career and regardless of which area I have been working in, I have seen people deeply affected by suicide,” said Liz, who has worked for the Trust for nearly 25 years. “It not only affects other patients and relatives, but also the staff who were caring for that individual.

“I was really encouraged when the Government published its strategy for preventing suicide across England. It focuses on uniting organisations and bringing together the community to combat suicide, which is very much the approach we are following in Norfolk and Suffolk.

“My job is to drive the NSFT strategy, looking at what we can learn and if there is anything we could have done better. But it’s also important to celebrate the things we are doing well too. The staff in our Trust save lives every day, and it’s important that we also focus on that really good work and how we can learn when things go right.

“I am currently working with service users and bereaved families and asking carers what extra support they need to look after someone in a crisis. I will also be looking at further increasing service user involvement in our own training while working closely with colleagues who are leading our men’s mental health initiative to see what we can do to combat suicide in this high-risk group.

“It is a huge project but there is a lot of energy around the Trust and people are very enthused. Although success will be a very difficult thing to measure, we hope to show people that suicide is not inevitable while reducing the number of people who decide to take their own lives.”

An important element of Liz’s work is driving NSFT’s Suicide Prevention Strategy over the next five years. The strategy underlines the Trust’s commitment to consistently delivering the fundamental aspects of safe care, such as training, learning from events, ensuring seven-day follow-up from inpatient services and providing safe environments and services which meet the needs of the community.

It details five priorities for improvement, which were developed in partnership with service users, carers, staff and stakeholders, and also take into account learning from local cases. They are:

• Focus on the safety of clinical pathways and get the essentials of assessment and care planning right every time to make a positive difference to the lives of service users.
• Further enhance the support given to families and carers.
• Support staff with the most up-to-date skills and knowledge to enhance their understanding of suicide.
• Use best practice and innovation from elsewhere while also testing new ideas locally to reduce suicide.
• Continue to work with partners to deliver countywide actions developed in conjunction with Norfolk and Suffolk’s multi-agency suicide prevention groups.

Liz is currently exploring a range of different innovations to help achieve these priorities, including an app signposting people to sources of support in a crisis and messages of hope co-produced by those who have attempted suicide and those who have lost loved ones.

“Suicide has a devastating impact on families and communities, but it remains something we have a limited understanding of and struggle to talk about openly,” added Liz. “That is why this strategy is so important – it commits our Trust to do all that we can to avoid the loss of life to suicide and strengthens our pledge to consistently deliver good standards of fundamental care.

“The strategy and the progress we make towards its delivery will be regularly reviewed so that we can ensure the actions we take are making a real difference to the safety of our service users when they are at their most vulnerable.”

To read the full strategy, visit:

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