Samaritans report that in 2018, in the UK and Republic of Ireland, more than 6,800 people died of suicide. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy.
Today we’re sharing experiences from staff and other partners to help raise awareness and help others who may be struggling with their mental health or having suicidal thoughts as well as share some of the work being done within NWAS and alongside our partner agencies to support our staff and communities.
Advanced Practitioner (Clinical Hub) – Suicide Prevention Lead
Suicide has a far reaching impact not only for those who die by suicide but the family and friends of the person, those who sadly witness such incidents and the staff involved such as frontline ambulance staff, our colleagues in 111 and ambulance control, police officers, local authority staff and so on.
Losing a friend to suicide aged just 24; it is something that has always resonated with me. Initially starting my career with NWAS in our NHS 111 service before moving over to the Clinical Hub, I was surprised by the amount of calls we receive to patients who are suicidal, require our support following self-harm and also those in mental health crisis.
In January 2019 whilst in my current role as an advanced practitioner I approached our chief nurse and mental health lead with an idea to lead on some work around suicide prevention and self-harm. I’m immensely proud that this idea has turned into a working group that consists of staff from all departments within the trust as well patient and public panel representation from those with lived experience to colleagues from external agencies including NHS England and Public Health England (PHE).
To date the team has undertaken a range of projects and initiatives, many of which alongside various partner agencies with our work aligned NICE Quality standards for Suicide Prevention. To mention a few, this includes suicide prevention training, an internal service evaluation completed alongside Teesside University with our findings shared in a publication and the commencement of real time surveillance work on data regarding self-harm and suicide attempts to support our colleagues in Public Health England and local suicide prevention leads.
Blue Light Peer Support Lead
Emergency Medical Technician
I feel that post-natal depression has long been played down as being just ‘baby blues’ when it’s not quite that simple. 25 years ago during a very stressful pregnancy, I suffered depression both before and after the birth of my daughter. What should have been a wonderful time in my life turned into a nightmare. From then on I had odd ‘bouts’ of depression throughout the years, quite understandably during key times like family bereavements, divorce etc. but never really thought of it as a condition. In 2012 several of these events happened in a short space of time and caused me to have a breakdown. The biggest factor in this was my daughter aged 16 moving away to study at college. I wasn’t ready and ‘empty nest syndrome’ hit me hard. I felt lost, like my life as a mum was over and I had no purpose in life anymore, so I tried to take my own life.
Looking back, I can see now that it was a cry for help as I never really discussed my depression with anyone, I just got on with it. I had thought no-one could possibly understand what I was feeling but as I looked more into my own condition, I discovered so many people the same as me. That moment completely changed my life. I started working with Mind charity’s Blue Light Programme to help Emergency Service Workers with poor mental health, and in 2015 introduced this into NWAS as a Peer Support system. Culture surrounding mental health has changed dramatically over the last few years and I’m extremely proud to have played a part in that with NWAS. Helping my colleagues has become my passion and I will always be there for anyone else who is struggling. Talking and being open about mental health is the only way to normalise it and let people feel safe to seek help. Its okay to not be okay.
Working as registered general nurse for over 40 years, Specialist Practitioner Phyllis had an experience a few years ago that had a significant effect on her mental health and made her question the career she had spent so many years building.
Working as part of our Clinical Hub, Phyllis learned that a patient of hers had sadly taken his own life. Despite following procedures correctly, acting in a caring and compassionate way and doing all she could to help, her confidence was completely knocked.
I felt depressed and very anxious – I was referred to occupational health and accessed a counselling service which was very helpful. My GP put me on a mood stabiliser which also helped me get through the next few months.
There were days where I sat in the car, crying, feeling I was unable even to walk through the door into work. I learned breathing techniques and used aromatherapy oils to help focus and boost my well-being.
It took six months for me to build my confidence up again with the support of my family, colleagues and line managers. The vulnerability however has not gone away and I still have occasional panic attacks when faced with a situation or challenge outside my control.
I have since spoken to some of our excellent mental health nurses – accessed further mental health training and compiled a list of resources to assist me in triaging patients with mental health needs.
I hope this gives some insight and help to anyone who may face a similar situation.
Patient and Public Panel Member
NWAS Patient and Public Panel Member Kevin shares his insight after someone close to him sought help after experiencing suicidal thoughts and attempting to take his own life.
If you are struggling with your mental health there is help out there in your local area please reach out and get the help you need. Recovery is possible just ask, don’t suffer alone.
Mental Health Coordinator – Cheshire Police
The duty of the Police Service to protect life is ingrained into every front line officer. We’re here to support people in a range of challenging and often traumatic times. Over the last decade we’ve seen more and more people at that point of life crisis where they’ve come to a point where they feel that they have no way out and they are at rock bottom. There’s always a way out and there’s always someone out there to support them. I’m proud of my colleagues who provide lifesaving and life changing crisis interventions every day to rescue those who need it.
The work that we’ve been involved in over the last few years with our colleagues in the NHS and the broader community has hugely changed our approach to crisis response. The reality is when times are tough services must work closely together to get through, and get the best possible support to members of the public who need us. Street Triage teams are a great example of this close joint working bringing emergency service professionals, including the Police, together with mental health professionals. I was privileged to be one of the first Street Triage Cops in the country and over the years have seen the impact that this approach can have on the care and support that we can provide to those in crisis. We’ll always get through together!
Chef Executive – PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide
Representatives from the North West Ambulance Service and PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide attend Local Authority Suicide Prevention meetings for many of the local authorities across the North West footprint. As a result of this, the two organisations have been able to work closely together and learn from each other.
NWAS personnel have been able to share PAPYRUS’s helpline – HOPELINEUK (0800 068 4141) – with patients and families so that they can get support if needed. NWAS is often the first to attend the scene of a suicide or attempted suicide which can be very traumatic. NWAS staff have been able to access PAPYRUS’s debrief service via HOPELINEUK when needing extra support after these traumatic events. NWAS staff have been able to call the helpline if they have been concerned about someone they know, whether personally or professionally, who may have had thoughts of suicide. Some staff from NWAS have also attended PAPYRUS suicide prevention training.
PAPYRUS would like to thank NWAS not only for the amazing, and often unrecognised, work that it does every single day, but also in supporting PAPYRUS by sharing our HOPELINEUK details with patients, families and colleagues. The North West Ambulance Service is helping to create suicide-safer communities.
If you need support, Samaritans are available 24 hours a day.
Call 116 123 or email email@example.com