West of England Suicide Prevention Summit takes place next week

  • 11 June 2021

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Health and care leaders and representatives from voluntary sector organisations in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire will come together at a summit to help tackle suicide next week. A self-help community group, a talking group for men and a bereavement support service will be some of the innovative suicide prevention initiatives being discussed at the Suicide Prevention Summit, which will take place on Wednesday 16 June 2021.

Leaders from health and care organisations across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) are gathering virtually to discuss some of the latest work in suicide prevention happening both locally and nationally, and reflect and build on what has been achieved.

The organisation of the event has been led by Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN), in collaboration with local health and care leaders from across the area. It will be chaired by IMHN CEO, Tom Renhard.

As well as details on local initiatives to support suicide prevention in BNSSG, the conference will include presentations from Dr Geraldine Strathdee OBE, Co-Founder of the Zero Suicide Alliance, and Tom Chapman, Founder of The Lions Barber Collective, an international collection of top barbers who have come together to help raise awareness for the prevention of suicide.

Other keynote speakers include:

  • Cllr Asher Craig – Deputy Mayor, Bristol City Council
  • Martin R White – Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager, Public Health England
  • Dr Eva Dietrich – Clinical Director, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
  • Ben Akers – Co-Founder, We Talk Club
  • Mohamed Sayaqle – Somali Youth Voice Bristol
  • Marina O’Brien – Second Step
  • Dominic Hardisty – Chief Executive, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
  • Jo Walker – Chief Executive, North Somerset Council

Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor, Bristol City Council said:

“We know the Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives and has impacted on people’s mental health in many ways.

“We have been responding as a city with a range of initiatives, including the Thrive Bristol programme to help protect the mental health of the most vulnerable people in our city. Improving mental health and wellbeing is one of the key priorities for Bristol’s Health and Wellbeing Board and is a priority area of focus for this year and next.

“The One City Plan outlines our ambition to become a zero suicide city and, as we look to the future, it is vital that we continue to work with other organisations and ensure we are offering the right support, at the right time, to those who need it.”

At the end of the event, organisations and individuals will be invited to pledge their support to take the 20-minute Zero Suicide Alliance training and encourage others to do the same. This is part of a local ambition for the West of England to become a Zero Suicide region.

Following on from the success of the first conference held in 2020, organisations have worked in partnership with the Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN) to host the upcoming summit which is part of the Shine On Suicide Prevention Campaign.

Tom Renhard, Chief Executive of IMHN, added:

“Given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had, we continue to feel it is vital to be creating spaces for community groups and individuals with lived experience that are leading the fight to prevent suicide and self-harm across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

“We are supporting a wider regional ambition to reduce the number of people taking their own lives and doing that requires a grassroots approach as well as support from senior leadership. Our aspiration needs to be zero suicides. One life lost is one too many, and there is plenty for us all to do to ensure people know there is support available out there and play a role in improving things for the future.”

Dr Jonathan Hayes, Clinical Chair of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“We are really pleased to be supporting this event and working together with our partners, the local community and the public to help tackle suicide prevention, as well as help to reduce the stigma around mental health.

“Looking after our mental health is more important than ever. So many people experience mental ill health at some point in their life and every suicide is a tragedy that impacts families and communities in such a terrible way. Ensuring people know where to go for help and support and helping others to recognise signs of suicide is so important.”

Councillor Franklin Owusu-Antwi, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Equality of Opportunity at South Gloucestershire Council, said:

“One life lost to suicide really is one too many. That’s why all of us at South Gloucestershire Council are putting our support behind the Shine On Suicide Prevention Campaign to help break down the stigma around suicide and self-harm. We look forward to working with local partners to encourage greater dialogue and bring this important issue out into the open.

“There are several suicide prevention initiatives working across South Gloucestershire, including two that will be presenting at the Suicide Prevention Summit – Men’s Talk South Glos, a talking and listening club for men, and Citizens Advice Bureau South Glos, which is delivering a project called Mindful Money and support clients who are experiencing extreme mental health issues and need help with their debt situation. I would also encourage people to take the free 20-minute Zero Suicide Alliance online training.”

Jo Walker, Chief Executive of North Somerset Council, who will be speaking at the summit, said:

“Suicide is preventable. This is such an important message and I’m pleased to be taking part in the summit, working with partners across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire to support this vital work.

“Suicide attempts, self-harm and suicidal thoughts represent a major public health challenge. And while early data shows there’s been no overall increase in suicide rates since the pandemic started, this could change. The last 16 months have been unprecedented and challenging in so many ways. But we can all learn more about preventing suicide, stay alert to warning signs and get through it together.

“I’d encourage everyone to sign up to the free training from the Zero Suicide Alliance. It takes about 20 minutes to do and, having done the training, I definitely feel better placed to identify when someone is presenting with suicidal thoughts or behaviour, be able to speak to them in a supportive way and signpost to the correct services or support.”

Dominic Hardisty, Chief Executive for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust, said:

“We see every life lost to suicide as a tragic and catastrophic event and at AWP we believe that no suicide death is inevitable.

“I am really proud to be involved in the 2021 Suicide Prevention Summit and look forward to hearing from those with lived experience to help us learn and identify more suicide prevention opportunities.”

Members of the public are also invited to attend the event to share their experiences and ideas about suicide prevention.

The suicide prevention conference takes place on Wednesday 16 June from 10am – 1.30pm on Zoom. For more information and to register, please visit the Eventbrite page.

For more information, please email: engagement@imhn.org.

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