More than 80 people attended Lincoln’s First Suicide Prevention Conference this week to find ways to stem an “avoidable” loss of life in the future – after figures revealed the city has seen its highest suicide rate since 2002.
As many as 20 people in Lincoln took their own lives in the last year and Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that 87 people committed suicide in the county in 2018.
Delegates, including mental health practitioners, front-line workers and counsellors, listened to inspirational speakers and reflected on the figures during the World Suicide Prevention Day event at The Showroom, in Tritton Road, which was organised by the NWCH (Naomi Watkins Counselling Hub).
Delegates also attended in-depth workshops on: Suicide Prevention in Young People (the number of young people under the age of 24 who committed suicide hit a 19-year-high last year); Suicide Prevention in the LGBT-plus community and ADHD and Suicide.
Delegates heard from NWCH Chief Executive Naomi Watkins about her recent six-week research trip to Australia and New Zealand, following winning a Winston Churchill Fellowship.
After a welcome from Naomi, Lincolnshire Police & Crime Commissioner Marc Jones said he recognised the importance of tackling the risk of suicides, which has seen the tightening-up of gun licensing locally.
“A young officer who has had classroom-based training can go out with his mentor and his first experiences can be attending a fatal RTA, followed by a suicide. This has brought home to me how difficult the job is. Wearing a uniform doesn’t stop people from having human frailty. We have to support them and share best practice with others,” he said.
The ONS figures show that, countrywide, the number of people ending their lives by suicide increased by 11.8 per cent from 5,821 to 6,507. That is the first increase in the suicide rate since 2013. Males made-up 75 per cent of that 6,507.
Fortis Therapy & Training Managing Director Alexis Powell-Howard, who supports people from diverse backgrounds picked-up on this issue, in her Mental Emotional Needs (MEN) address.
Kyle Walker of Positive Connections said people needed to be aware of the damaging impact of listening to persistent unhelpful messages that pop into their heads.
“My message to others is, the past has gone, it’s important to live in the present. You can be affected by what (messages) you absorb, but what you believe in is what you will become. It’s important to change your internal dialogue,” said Kyle.
SK First Aid Training Director Samantha Kendall spoke about Mental Health and Crisis Situations. Samantha, who formerly worked as a qualified Emergency Medical Technician for seven years, said crews often put on brave faces when dealing with devastating situations.
Heath Blogger Thomas Dunning (aka The Mental Health Runner), who was rocked by the loss of his brother Will Bonner in 2009, has also experienced other problems including cyber-bullying.
Volunteer, coach and campaigner for the improvement of her local mental health services, Emily Nuttall travelled from Guernsey to speak at the conference.
“I think a lot of people try to give the impression they are someone they are not. You are not being weak if you just be yourself. I believe many people wear masks. I urge them to leave theirs at home and realise it is fine “not to feel okay,” she said.
Surrey woman Charley James (29), who told how she and her sister Katie both contemplated ending their lives by suicide on different occasions, is a keen advocate of mental health awareness.
“I was put through to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health service because I had been self-harming and eventually learned that I had an emotional unstable personality disorder, that wasn’t picked up until much later,” she said.
The recovering addict, who used drugs and alcohol in order to self-medicate, has been clean for two-and-a-half years, but said it was far too long to get properly diagnosed. After “15 years of pain” she wants to see “faults in the system” addressed.
The conference featured well-attended workshops. NWCH Counselling & Safeguarding Lead & Trainer Chris Morris, led the session on Suicide Prevention in Young People.
Robert Glenton, founder of Upbeat – a social group for people with a personality disorder – and former professional footballer and now an enthusiastic mental health advocate Martin Pemberton of Rhomb Associates, also spoke.
NWCH Chief Executive Naomi Watkins shared what she had discovered during her six-week visit to Australia and New Zealand.
“This trip gave me an unrivalled opportunity to see and hear, first hand, how professional and voluntary organisations there are working to prevent suicides. We shared so much of value. Our counterparts face similar issues, but people seem to be more philanthropic and there is more funding around.”
Colleague and fellow NWCH Director Charlie Blackwell said it had been a highly successful day, adding that it is the socially isolated and those without supportive family, friends and work colleagues who are the most at risk of mental health challenges – but help is available.