Health and Wellbeing

Training and support to help reduce suicide in Devon

Person sat on their own on a bench looking out to sea Photo by Nick Page on Unsplash

Posted on: 9 September 2021

Public Health authorities in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay are working hard to prevent suicide through a programme of public awareness raising, targeted training for professionals and volunteers, and by supporting local grass roots community initiatives aimed at preventing suicide.

It comes as records show a rise in reported cases in Devon since 2018, with suicide rates in the county – 12 people per 100,000 of the population – higher than the average in England and the South West.

Men aged 45 to 49, and women aged 50 to 54 had the highest suicide rates in England and Wales in 2019, according to the Samaritans.  The rate for men aged 45 to 49 was 25.5 per 100,000 and the rate for women aged 50 – 54 was 7.4 per 100,000.

Local Sustainability and Transformation Partnership and NHSE Transformation funding is backing Devon’s work programme, supporting pioneering initiatives such as Torquay-based, the Lions Barbers Collective – a now international group of barbers who have undergone training in how to recognise symptoms of mental ill health in clients and signpost them to relevant support services.  The group helps to raise awareness of mental illness and aims to prevent suicide by creating training that enables barbers to recognise, talk and listen out for symptoms of depression.

Similar prevention training is also in development with GPs in the south west, with studies showing that two thirds of people who end their lives by suicide visited their GP in the previous 12 months before their death.

New training is now available to help professionals, volunteers and others in the community to teach them the skills to help prevent future suicides.  The funded  training is being provided across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay by local trainers in:  Community Suicide Awareness, Emotional resilience, Suicide Bereavement and having better conversations around health and wellbeing. All training will be provided virtually and will be free of charge.

Public Health Devon is also working with the Devon Community Foundation to offer small grants to local groups that raise awareness of suicide and teach people skills to prevent future avoidable deaths.

The training and support for local community groups are part of the Devon-wide Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan, (link) involving NHS Devon, Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Somerset Fire, South West Ambulance Trust, statutory services, voluntary sector and communities.

This Friday is World Suicide Prevention Day, a global day to raise awareness of suicide, and to encourage conversations about it.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Public Health Devon, said:

“It can be hard to start conversations about suicide.  People often worry they will say the wrong thing and make the situation worse.  Talking about suicide doesn’t cause suicide, and people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts report feeling relieved when someone asked them directly about their intentions.

“This Friday is World Suicide Prevention Day, and while it is a difficult subject to talk about, it’s important that we do just that.  Advice on why it’s important to talk about suicide, and ways to start conversations is available for free, by downloading the ‘It’s Safe to Talk about Suicide’ leaflet.”

To find out more about local training, email publichealth-mailbox@devon.gov.uk

For more information about the Samaritans, visit their website, www.samaritans.org.   Calls to their 24 hour service is free, telephone 116 123.  Or you can talk to their listening volunteers using a new web chat service.  Visit their website for details.

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