Health chief aims to re­duce sui­cide rate in area to zero

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

THE West Mid­lands should be set­ting it­self a tar­get of zero sui­cides every year, ac­cord­ing to the Com­bined Au­thor­ity’s men­tal health chief.

Speak­ing ahead of next month’s ‘Walk­ing out of Dark­ness’ event to help raise aware­ness and to re­mem­ber the vic­tims of sui­cide, Sean Rus­sell says that “every loss of life is one too many.”

Last year there were 477 sui­cides in the West Mid­lands, a huge rise from ten years be­fore­hand when just 245 deaths were recorded from sui­cide in 2007.

As part of its five-year plan, the NHS has set it­self the tar­get of re­duc­ing the num­ber of sui­cides by ten per cent each year. How­ever, Mr Rus­sell, who also works as a po­lice of­fi­cer, says that such a tar­get isn’t am­bi­tious enough.

Mr Rus­sell said: “”The five year plan for men­tal health, which is the NHS stan­dard, talked about a 10 per cent re­duc­tion.

“And I’ve said I don’t think that’s au­da­cious enough. And I say let’s push for zero. It’s go­ing to take us a long time to get there, we might not ever get there, but if I don’t push for zero, I’m not happy that re­duc­ing that num­ber by 48 is enough.

“Be­cause if I’m the po­lice of­fi­cer who’s got to go and speak to the fam­ily of num­ber 49, I don’t think that’s right. You can’t say ‘well ac­tu­ally we hit our tar­get but un­for­tu­nately we weren’t there for your son, or daugh­ter, or fa­ther, or mother or sis­ter or hus­band or wife, or what­ever it is.

“I can’t live with my­self that way. So for me let’s be au­da­cious and push it, and we will con­tinue to do that.”

Ap­pointed as im­ple­men­ta­tion di­rec­tor for the men­tal health com­mis­sion back in 2016, Mr Rus­sell says that bring­ing sui­cide rates down has al­ways been near the top of his agenda. And he’s en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple across the re­gion to take part in next month’s ‘Walk out of Dark­ness,’ an event which will see peo­ple walk through the cen­tre of Birm­ing­ham to raise aware­ness of sui­cide.

Founded in 2014, the event en­cour­ages peo­ple “to walk with your fam­ily, friends and work col­leagues; show­ing sup­port for those suf­fer­ing, help­ing end the stigma, rais­ing men­tal health aware­ness and cre­at­ing zero sui­cide com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try; plus fundrais­ing for lo­cal and re­gional char­i­ties.”

And Rus­sell thinks events like this are vi­tal to help raise aware­ness, so that the 477 who took their own lives last year don’t be­come just an­other num­ber.

“On Oc­to­ber 7 this year we’ve got the ‘Walk­ing out of Dark­ness’ event, which takes place in Birm­ing­ham city cen­tre. It’s a walk of around six miles around the canal net­work which fin­ishes off in Vic­to­ria Square,” he said. “And that’s about sui­cide preven­tion, and about men­tal health and well­ness.

The ‘Walk out of Dark­ness’ takes place on Oc­to­ber 7. Find out more and sign up here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/birm­ing­ham-sun­day-7-oc­to­ber-2018-tick­ets-42721543286

If you are strug­gling to cope, please call Sa­mar­i­tans free on 116 123 (UK and Ire­land), email jo@sa­mar­i­tans.org or visit the Sa­mar­i­tans web­site.

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