On Wednesday 31 January, PAPYRUS representatives joined hundreds of people working in the suicide prevention sector for the annual National Suicide Prevention Alliance Conference, the following blog has been written by Catherine, Research Officer at PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide.
Overlooking the historic Oval cricket ground, speakers shared their latest research and new projects at the NSPA’s annual conference. Professor Louis Appleby opened the conference by discussing emerging trends, including a rise in self-harm among girls aged 13-16. He emphasised that economic uncertainty increases suicide risk, thereby giving us food for thought amid the current cost-of-living crisis. Maria Caulfield – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health and Women’s Health Strategy – delivered the ministerial keynote.
Each attendee took part in two workshops. My first workshop discussed Shout’s crisis text service. It was revealing to learn about the demographics of people using the service; disproportionately high numbers of autistic people, LGBTQ+ people, and young people in receipt of free school meals. Clearly, it is saddening that these groups have a greater need for the service, yet it is encouraging to think about the potential that instant messaging has to provide support for these groups.
The second workshop that I attended was run by Rethink Mental Illness, which supports community initiatives for the mental health of Black men. The charity Man On! offers free football sessions to engage men, before following them up with wellbeing support. Br8ke The Silence uses institutions such as churches, mosques and schools to develop strong and self-sustaining networks of fellowship and belonging for Black men.
A theme throughout the day was the need to incorporate lived experience in suicide prevention work in a meaningful way – something that do daily at PAPYRUS.
York Ending Stigma shared the work it has done to amplify the voices of those with experience of suicide, which was followed by a panel discussion about lived experience. Panellists highlighted the need to have an open mind when listening to those with lived experience of suicide and to provide them with adequate support in the workplace. Enabling more people with lived experience to take on leadership roles was identified as a growth area. Dads Unlimited shared the work it does to tackle the devastating impact of family breakdown on men’s mental health, with CEO Nav Mirza sharing his personal experiences.
Over the course of the day, we heard a range of perspectives on suicide prevention. Professor Louis Appleby spoke about the challenge of suicide prevention as being “how to intervene between distress and despair”; we know that many people experience suicidal ideation, but the challenge is to intervene before it results in action.
Meanwhile, NSPA’s Jess Worner talked about the need to nurture a world that is ‘more liveable’ for people to prevent suicidal ideation in the first instance. For me, this slight tension was particularly thought provoking.