Council’s key role in preventing suicide in Lancashire

County Hall
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On day two of our series “Talk & Tell” on the county’s high suicide rates Fiona Finch finds out what Lancashire county council is doing to try to prevent further suicides.

In response to Lancashire’s high suicide rates the county council is offering special courses and working with local charities.

Across the county from 2012 to 2014 there were 471 recorded suicides.

The council, with its responsibility for public health in 12 county districts, now has a key role in preventative work to enable people to spot and help those most at risk from suicide.

It is known those most vulnerable are men between the ages of 40 and 44 and 75 per cent of suicides are male. In women the age group 45-49 is a vulnerable time. There are also significant concerns about older teenagers.

Across the dozen county council districts 280 men and 90 women killed themselves between 2012 and 2014. Preston had the highest number with 64 deaths.

Lesley Elmes, Lancashire County Council’s Public Health specialist for mental health and wellbeing, said:“One death by suicide is one too many isn’t it? It’s all about how do we prevent suicides and how do we reduce suicide across Lancashire... Nationally suicides are increasing but Lancashire does have a higher incidence of suicide than the England average.

“There’s a multitude of factors involved - relationship breakdowns, financial worries, unemployment, deprivation, previous mental health issues.

“We carry out an audit which helps us to better understand what these local issues are and help us to target resources more effectively.”

“We have a Prevention Network. We are currently working with other organisations such as the Samaritans who are bringing their expertise and targeting areas. No one organisation is able to influence all of these factors so it’s really important we work together to make an impact.”

A Safe Talk awareness two-day programme for organisations and individuals is one preventative tool.

She said: “It’s suicide awareness for everyone. It’s spotting the signs that people may be at risk and there’s a more intense training programme called ASSIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) - that’s a first aid approach to suicide prevention.”

Lesley added: “We think of physical first aid, what we are doing is trying to keep somebody safe and alive until further help can arrive.”

She advises you need to have the courage to ask someone are they contemplating suicide and then help get them the support they need and that’s a role for communities, organisations and individuals.

Find out more at lancashire.gov.uk.