– Gemma Bruce, Head of External Affairs, Turning Point
On 8 November, Turning Point launched our national Suicide Prevention Strategy at our substance misuse service in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. We chose Leicester because we provide both crisis mental health and substance services locally and there is a strong culture of partnership working between statutory services and the third sector across the mental health pathway.
At the launch event, Gill Campbell, Turning Point’s Head of Nursing and lead on suicide prevention, spoke about being inspired by Steve Mallon’s campaign, following the death of his son by suicide, which argued that we should move away from the idea that anyone dying by suicide is somehow ‘inevitable’.
The idea that every suicide is a preventable death is the core theme of the Turning Point’s strategy and yet suicide is the leading cause of death in England in adults below the age of 50. People living in deprived communities, in poor housing, who are out of work or in precarious employment are more likely to suffer from poor physical and mental health and also to die from suicide. A key risk factor is a history of substance misuse and as a large national organisation with expertise in both mental health and addiction, and good line of sight on how suicide prevention strategies are developing across the country, we are well placed to drive forward effective suicide prevention in the areas where we work.
At the launch, Jan Larkin, Head of Psychology, talked about how Turning Point work with people with drug or alcohol issues and mental health issues. The sector has moved from the language of primary and secondary diagnosis to dual diagnosis and now to co-existing substance misuse and mental health. Jan argued that we shouldn’t be talking about diagnosis but rather experiences of distress and desperation, about how we support people to manage their emotions and survive a crisis without engaging in self-harm or substance use.
Thomas Joiner’s theory of suicidality points to 3 main factors: failed belongingness, perceived burdensomeness and acquired ability for lethal self-injury. People who have had lots of trauma in their lives become de-sensitised to experiences which would scare or worry others which is why we are going to be routinely asking people about trauma in our drug and alcohol services and developing specific mental health interventions such as crisis survival groups, trauma information groups and bridging interventions for substance misuse clients on an IAPT waiting list.
What we do know about joint working across substance misuse and mental heath services is that pathways and flow charts look great but only work where people working in services know each other and this is a key part of the role of the psychosocial intervention lead in each of our substance misuse services. This is easier where Turning Point provide both substance misuse and mental health services, however we are committed to developing strong joint working in all areas where we work.
At Turning Point we are really fortunate that we have lots of staff with lived experience which really enriches the support we are able to offer. It also means that these individuals have increased risk which is why support for staff is another key element of the strategy. Harry Hogarth, Community Partnership Lead for Turning Point’s Crisis service in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland recalled a colleague saying to him: “if you are a tree you hide in the woods”, welcoming the fact that Turning Point are prioritising suicide prevention and also the recognition that staff working in the sector are a high risk group. Harry talked about the work his service do in partnership with the local NHS Trust, through their 24 hour helpline, an open access outreach programme and through the crisis house to make sure people feel contained.
Last year saw the highest recorded suicide rate since 2002. At Turning Point we want to be part of turning those figures around. Our strategy focuses on improving access to help, recognising the complexity of people’s lives and the terrible impact of suicide on family and friends who lose a loved one in this way. We know that having the right mental health support is a major protective factor which why we are focused on making sure anyone in deep distress, whether or not they have drug or alcohol problems, gets the mental health support they need.
Find out more about our member Turning Point at www.turning-point.co.uk