Praise for mental health teams as figures show no increase in suicide rates

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Friday, July 3rd, 2020 10:51pm

By Keri Trigg - Local Democracy Reporter

There has been no rise in suicide rates in Shropshire during the coronavirus pandemic when compared to previous years, early indications suggest.

A recognised need to support people’s mental wellbeing throughout the crisis has seen a series of measures brought in by Shropshire Council’s mental health teams and third sector organisations, who have been praised for their vital and life-saving work.

A report to a meeting of Shropshire Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board next week highlights some of the steps taken to identify the mental health needs of Shropshire’s population and how they could best be met.

The report, by Shropshire public health consultants Gordon Kochane and Jo Robins, says: “It was recognised that in addition to the existing mental ill health conditions within our communities, the pressures and uncertainties associated with Covid-19 would have a direct or indirect impact on the emotional wellbeing of Shropshire residents.

“A weekly mental health resilience and prevention group was set up early in the pandemic period as a subgroup to the community reassurance programme.

“The purpose of this group has been to bring partners from across different directorates within the council, the voluntary sector as well as other key partners to identify and respond to the mental health and emotional wellbeing impact of Covid-19 for Shropshire residents and those working within Shropshire.

“We recognised the focus would be on prevention of avoidable mental ill health, promotion of coping mechanisms and opportunities to manage emotional wellbeing for our communities.

“This group has been instrumental in providing insight into immediate local mental health needs and we would like to highlight the fantastic work from members of this group (as well as those linked to it) for their motivation, willingness and desire to create a social movement in leading, designing and implementing such a range of response with short turnaround.”

The report says new mental health resources have been created and support made available to council staff, voluntary sector workers and care home employees.

Specialist services have been established to support young people and those who have suffered a bereavement during the pandemic.

Shropshire MIND has been running weekly sessions via video conferencing on things like stress and anxiety, which are publicly available and free to attend.

Shropshire Council has agreed to invest in a 12-month licence for all residents to access Big White Wall, an online community for people experiencing stress, anxiety or low mood.

The report also addresses widely reported fears over a possible increase in suicides, but said this had so far not been seen in Shropshire.

It says: “Although this a continuing work programme, we are aware from national messages that suicide risk may increase as a direct result of Covid-19, due to increase in isolation, loss of continuity in support, bereavement of a Covid-19 death, or indirect impact, such as financial worries through loss of employment, relationship breakdown or domestic abuse.

“Through continued monitoring of our local data, we can confirm that observationally there has been no change to the rate of suicide deaths in Shropshire during the period January to end of April 2020 compared to the same period in previous years.

“The suicide prevention action group are continuing discussions as to how to ensure we can continue to promote our work with all partners and the wider community.

“This includes the continued promotion of existing resources such as the Pick Up The  Phone You Are Not Alone resource, the free online Zero Suicide Alliance training as well as other helpful resources such as the Shout! text line and Samaritans.”

The report concludes: “There has been much positive learning and connectivity between different teams and services coming together to progress a resilience and prevention response for mental health during Covid-19.

“We hope to continue to build and strengthen these relationships as well as the enthusiasm for identifying and strengthening shared ambitions.

Support and advice are available from:

  • Samaritans – 116 123 or
  • Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Access Service – 03001 240365
  • Shropshire Mind – 01743 368647
  • Telford Mind – 07434 869248

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