Preston will be able to “lead the way” in meeting the requirements of the government’s new suicide prevention strategy - because of the work which it has already done on the issue.
That is according to the deputy chair of a Preston City Council task group which investigated how suicide rates in the city could be lowered. Daniel Dewhurst said that mental health would now be at “the core of the council’s agenda”.
READ MORE >>> Young mum's messages of hope pinned up at Preston docks
The cross-party committee, which met on more than half a dozen occasions over the course of twelve months, is due to report shortly. It is expected to make a series of recommendations about how the council can help people experiencing mental health problems.
The government is calling for local areas to develop their own suicide prevention plans and Cllr Dewhurst says that, in counties like Lancashire, the work should be shared across individual districts - and not left solely to top level councils with direct responsibility for health.
“I think it is incumbent on all councils to review their services and how they can ensure that anybody who makes contact with them is directed to mental health provision if they need it,” Cllr Dewhurst said.
“Whilst there is more work required to ensure mental health is not stigmatised in our communities...there is a plan in place [in Preston] to increase awareness,” he added.
Preston has a “significantly worse” suicide rate than the England average - and has done for almost a decade, according to the latest statistics. It is one of only three areas of Lancashire which fall into that category - the others are Blackpool and Hyndburn.
The Preston task group heard evidence from organisations including Network Rail about safeguarding high-risk locations and also from the NHS about how suicide prevention can be incorporated into plans to overhaul health and social care services in the county.
The committee also investigated the use of posters at so-called “hot spots” to try to deter people who may be considering suicide.
Earlier this year, a young mum who had suffered from post-natal depression put up a series of notes at Preston Docks to support anybody experiencing mental health difficulties. Jess Johnson’s handwritten posters included: “The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die” and “Suicide doesn’t take the pain away - it just passes it to someone else”.
***Rates of suicide/death from undetermined intent in Lancashire:
Blackpool - 16.0 per 100,000 people
Hyndburn - 15.3 per 100,000 people
Preston - 13.7 per 100,000 people
Source: Public Health England (2014-16)
***The suicide rate in Lancashire’s most deprived districts is nearly double the level in the least deprived areas.
***The suicide rate amongst males in the county is almost two and a half times higher than for females.
Source: Public Health England (2013-15)