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Plans to prevent deaths from suicide in Cambridgeshire are being progressed



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Plans are being progressed to try to prevent all deaths from suicide in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Cambridgeshire County Council is developing a new suicide prevention strategy with partners in the county.

It is hoped the plans will help reduce the number of people dying from suicide, and to ensure people are receiving the support they need.

Councillor Richard Howitt.
Councillor Richard Howitt.

A report on progress so far was presented to councillors at a meeting of county council’s Adults and Health Committee on Thursday (July 14).

The paper set out that a ‘zero suicide ambition’ is being pursued. It said: “We acknowledge that zero suicide is ambitious and will rely on many wider structural factors that lie outside of the scope of this strategy.

“However, as a system we have adopted this approach as we think it is important that we do everything in our power to prevent suicide.”

The report set out the proposed six main areas of the strategy, which are:

Identify local risk factors for suicide and ensure approaches are considerate of different needs.

Provide high quality general and specialist support to people presenting with suicidal intent.

Protect people at a time of crisis and following de-escalation.

Ensure the community is well-equipped to prevent suicide in non-clinical environments.

Improve understanding of self-harm and support the promotion of healthy coping strategies.

Ensure that appropriate steps are taken following a suicide to support the community.

The report also set out three planned ways of measuring whether the strategy is successful. The first of these is to see whether a “significant reduction” in inpatient suicides in inpatient care settings and no never-events by 2025.

The second is whether the number of patients in contact with mental services dying by suicide is “significantly reduced” by 2025.

‘How will this strategy be more successful than the last’

The third is to see whether there has been a reduction in the rates of suicide in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in line with the national averages by 2025.

Councillor Richard Howitt highlighted that there was a previous strategy, and he asked council officers how the new strategy was different to ‘give them some hope’ that it will be more effective.

The council officer explained that the previous strategy had taken the priorities from the national suicide prevention strategy.

He said these had been carried forward into the proposed strategy, but with additional focus on the community.

He said the previous strategy had a “strong focus” on the mental health system, but that the new plans added an “additional layer” of engaging with the community to add “further wrap around support”, which he said they expect will make the difference.

Councillor Mark Howell said he felt they needed to be “very careful” when setting out the measurements of success.

He said the rates staying the same would still be a success, but said getting them lower would be “ideal”.

Councillor Phillippa Slatter asked if more could be added to the strategy about the influence of social media.

She suggested helping parents learn about the dangers and identify signs, as well as helping teachers be able to “ask and listen in the right way” could help.

Councillor Chris Boden said that in all his time on the different health committees, he had not read a paper that made him feel as sad as this.

He said: “How tragic it all is, I very much welcome the target ideal being zero, I very much welcome the efforts being made.”

Cllr Boden said he did want to raise one issue that he had. He explained that the legal definition of suicide included people who choose to end their life when “suffering dreadfully with a terminal condition”.

He asked for it to be considered that the strategy did not include these deaths in its measurements and whether an amendment could be considered. Cllr Boden asked Cllr Slatter if she would consider seconding this as he said she had shared a view on the legal definition.

Cllr Slatter said she was grateful for the support in raising the issue, but that she did think it was fair at this stage to put council officers in that position given the legal issues.

Council officers said this was a “very complex issue” with debate on both sides. They highlighted that euthanasia was against national law.

They said they acknowledged the comments about people who choose to end their life due to long term chronic pain or the diagnosis of a terminal condition, and said there would be further discussion.

They added that they are ensuring that every step is taken to support the mental health of people who are suffering physical health issues and that their “emotional pain is addressed”.



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