Hertfordshire’s suicide prevention strategy scrutinised by councillors

Hertfordshire councillors met to discuss the county's suicide prevention strategy. Picture: Think St

Hertfordshire councillors met to discuss the county's suicide prevention strategy. Picture: Think Stock. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Councillors met to discuss Hertfordshire’s suicide prevention strategy, which aims for no one in the county to reach the point where they feel they have to end their own life.

In a meeting on Monday, October 14, councillors heard that there were 95 suicides recorded in Herts last year, which is low compared to other areas.

They also looked into the impact of suicides - with estimates suggesting each suicide impacts 135 people and has an economic cost of £1.7 million - and the work that is ongoing to prevent them.

During the meeting, councillors heard evidence from the director of public health Jim McManus, the Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT), the Samaritans, Herts police and the British Transport Police.

Mr McManus said good suicide prevention needs to sit alongside a population-wide approach to good mental health, with multiple agencies working together.

He said: "No one agency can deliver this on their own. We recognise we have made some progress, but there's still more to be done in this area."

Councillors were told that men are more likely to take their own lives in Herts, with suicide rates highest in men and women aged between 45 and 49.

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They heard that one in four of those who took their lives had discussed their mental health with a member of their GP practice in the four weeks before their death.

Mr McManus pointed to the 'gap' that remains in primary care, in signposting people through to mental health services.

But Dr Anna Benson, GP clinical lead for mental health for Herts Valleys CCG, said that often those determined to kill themselves would not talk about it with the GP - and that they needed to look for non-verbal cues.

They also heard from Network Rail and British Transport Police about their measures to keep people safe, and from police and the HPFT who operate 'triage vehicles' to support those suffering from a mental health crisis.

The group recommended creating a 'safe place', where people in crisis could be taken to be safe, as well as jointly working with other organisations, bereavement support and mandatory training for front-line staff in GP surgeries.

- If you need someone to talk to you can call Samaritans for free at any time, 24 hours a day and from any phone, on 116 123.