A recent Suicide-Safer Schools workshop hosted by the London Borough of Bexley as part of its mental health awareness programme was voted ‘extremely relevant’ and ‘inspirational’ by local teachers and mentoring staff who attended the event at St Catherine’s Catholic School, Bexleyheath.

Around 60 representatives from local schools, primarily secondary and sixth form colleges participated in the workshop led by national charity PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide. Many were surprised at the high number of young people who take their own lives every year: over 1,600 under 35; 200 school children.

“The workshop was well received,” said Pascale Berthellet, Bexley Borough’s public health advisor for children and young people. “The level of engagement from secondary schools echoes the need for staff to have a better understanding of suicide prevention. Teachers report a rise in the number of young people saying that they have suicidal thoughts. Equipping teachers with the skills and knowledge to deal with this is crucial.”

The programme was led by Aarti Kumari PAPYRUS regional development officer for London. It included guidance on developing a suicide prevention policy, language around suicide, how to ask and talk about suicide safely, what to look out for and what to do if concerned that a child is at imminent risk of death or harm.

A presentation by staff from Tharreo House, New Addington, demonstrated the huge benefits their school had gained having been one of the first in the country to implement the guidance contained in the PAPYRUS Building Suicide-Safer Schools and Colleges guide.

Nina Clarke, PAPYRUS deputy chief executive, said: “PAPYRUS is dedicated to preventing young suicide. This event represented the national launch of our suicide-safer schools training programme and we thank Bexley Borough public health team for facilitating it. The fact that 70% of senior schools in the borough took up the offer of this training shows that there is a need for it.”

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