NHS staff need to be trained in suicide prevention say Samaritans

More frontline NHS staff should be trained to spot people at risk of suicide, said Samaritans at a reception in Parliament today.

Findings by the Mental Health Taskforce released earlier this month show that nearly half of all general practice nurses have no training in mental health, never mind the specifics of suicide prevention.

The figures, from the Royal College of GPs, show that GP training could also be improved to help them identify patients vulnerable to suicide.

Today Samaritans launched its campaign, We Listen, supported by Network Rail on behalf of the wider rail industry. Samaritans has been working in partnership with Network Rail since 2010 to reduce suicide on the railways.

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said:  “We know that dedicated NHS staff are doing brilliant work, however, widening participation in suicide prevention training could increase expertise and will potentially save lives.

“In 2014, more than 6,000 people in the UK died by suicide. We need to do more to bring this total down. To reduce suicide as a society, we need to work across promotion, prevention and protection – building people’s skills in emotional resilience from a young age, ensuring good services and support are available to help people through difficulty and support them in a crisis.

“Carrying out an audit of training throughout the UK to pinpoint what is most effective would be a good first step. Samaritans is calling on Government and MPs around the country, to use their influence to get the message out about the need for more suicide prevention training.

“If health workers know what to look for, we can save more lives. Samaritans’ six year partnership with Network Rail has convinced us of how effective the right training can be.

The three Zero Suicide pilot programmes in England have adapted the key principles used in Detroit and have received a fantastic evaluation by the Centre for Mental Health. In Hertfordshire for example, there has been real success with training GPs, showing an increase in referrals from local programmes which provide treatment for people suffering from depression and anxiety.

“The Government needs to take the best of what’s already working and roll it out more widely.

“In the UK and Ireland, every 90 minutes someone dies by suicide, and it is the biggest killer of men under 50 and young people aged 20-34.

“Suicide is not inevitable, it’s preventable. Samaritans believes that by working in partnership with others, fewer people will die by suicide.”

The event highlighted Samaritans partnership with the rail industry, which has now trained more than 11,000 railway workers to spot and intervene to help vulnerable people at risk of suicide on the rail network.

Extending the training to other industries has the potential to save more lives. Samaritans knows from its work with people at risk of suicide how important it is for frontline health staff to have the confidence and skills to be able to recognise and respond to the warning signs – before people reach crisis point.   


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Notes to editors:

  • You don’t have to be suicidal to call us. Whatever you’re going through, call us free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.
  • It’s the public’s kind donations and more than 21,000 trained volunteers that mean Samaritans is always there for anyone struggling to cope. For further information, please contact Samaritans’ press office on 020 8394 8300 or press@samaritans.org.