Lancashire’s battle against suicide

Mental health care facility The Harbour in Blackpool
Mental health care facility The Harbour in Blackpool
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On the second day of our series on soaring suicide rates in Preston and across the county Fiona Finch examines the roles of the NHS in preventing suicide.

In August this year, a mum watched helplessly as her daughter stood on the roof of Wilkos in Blackpool, threatening to jump.

The young woman, who had suffered from mental health problems since she was a schoolgirl, was eventually talked down by police and taken to The Orchard mental health hospital in Lancaster.

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However just hours later, after being assesed by two psychiatrists, she was deemed fit to leave.

The following day she went back to the same rooftop and again said she wanted to kill herself.

Her mother has since spoken out about the lack of support for people with suicidal feelings.

The woman, who the Evening Post has chosen not to name, said: “I feel very let down by the mental health services, not just in the last week but the last few years.

“It’s so disjointed. She will work with one service, and then be put on a waiting list for another.

“She did a course recently and she came out with a lavender bag she can smell. What good is that?”

In 2014/15 68 people who had been in contact with the county’s mental health services took their own lives.

It’s acknowledged that there are not enough beds in Lancashire to meet demand and so far this year the Lancashre Care NHS Foundation Trust has sent 10 young people out of the county for treatment due to a shortage of beds.

The Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust has defended its record saying it receives many more referrals than similar trusts and meets referral targets.

“We have worked hard to reduce the number of suicides amongst people that are known to our services and in 15/16 there was a reduction to 37.

“Of course any suicide is one too many and we continue to work very hard to reduce this further.”

The Trust is responsible for the provision of secure, inpatient and community mental health services in the county, running acute therapy services from sites in Ormskirk and Blackpool.

A spokesman said: “We have not had to cut frontline services.

“In fact we have worked with our mental health commissioners to invest and develop new services to make sure that people have access to support when they are most in need of help.”

These included the opening of the Towneley Unit in Blackburn, a crisis support unit, additional assessment beds and an acute therapy service.

A spokeswoman said: “Lancashire has the highest suicide rates in the country; this is in the context of rates in the North of England generally being higher.

“However, suicide rates amongst people that have been in contact with Lancashire Care are actually lower than the national average – despite the fact that we accept more than two and a half times more referrals than similar mental health trusts.”

It cites contributory factors to the region’s high suicide rate as poverty, social isolation and substance misuse.

Future plans include expanding its recently introduced services and providing additional services, including crisis houses in community settings to provide respite care or sanctuary outside of hospital.

The spokesman added that the numbers transferred out of area for inpatient admission have reduced: “On a national level there is an increased demand for inpatient mental health services and this is reflected locally in Lancashire.

“Our main priority is to ensure that people receive the care they need as quickly as possible and this can mean that when there are no beds available in the Lancashire area, people are sometimes sent out of the area for treatment.”

An NHS benchmarking report in 2014/15 acknowledged that Lancashire had “greater needs but only average numbers of beds,”

It had a good community care offer and the report concluded: “The Trust serves an area of high need and responds actively to those needs.”

• Lancashire’s specialist mental health care budget

2012/13 £172m

2013/14 £177m

2014/15 £177m

2015/16 £181m

2016/17 £183m

• HELPLINES

If you or someone you know feels suicidal help is available.

1.Preston Samaritans: 01772 822022 or freephone 116 123 The Preston branch is at 11 St Wilfrid Street.

2. PAPYRUS HOPELineUK offers advice on young suicide prevention - 0800 068 41 41 text 077 86 20 9697 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org

3. Lancashire’s Wellbeing and Mental Health Helpline - 0800 915 4640

www.lancs-mentalhealthhelpline.nhs.uk

4.CRUSE Bereavement Care - 0808 808 1677 or www.cruse.org.uk.