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Suicide Mitigation: early intervention and averting crisis

Dr Alys Cole-King, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist and Royal College of Psychiatrists spokesperson on suicide and self-harm/Clinical Director, Connecting with People discusses Suicide Mitigation and early intervention and averting crisis at today’s conference. In her presentation Dr Alys Cole-King discussed:

  • combining compassion and clinical governance to save lives
  • risk management or risk mitigation?
  • safe and effective triage, referral and response to people at risk of suicide
  • Safety Plans: collaborating with people at risk of suicide and their carers to instill hope, build resilience and resourcefulness to mitigate the risk of suicide

Dr Alys Cole-King’s full presentation is available for download at the end of this page.

Alys began her presentation by highlighting the fundamental need to focus on suicide mitigation as in the UK more people die from suicide than road traffic accidents, yet it isn't talked about or fundded.  Alys discussed the importance of combining compassion and clinical governance for suicide mitigation to work, and how it needs to be an ongoing process of assessment with the patient to support them. 

Dr Alys Cole-King Abstract:

Suicide mitigation is a different way of thinking about individuals at risk from suicide and starts from the assumption that self-harm and suicidal thoughts need to be taken seriously and met with empathy and understanding on every occasion. Instead of focusing on quantifying and characterising suicide risk so that it can be ‘managed’, the emphasis in suicide mitigation is on identifying the person’s individual risk factors, needs and strengths, instilling hope and empowering them to seek and accept support. This involves compassionately engaging with someone at risk of suicide, undertaking a tailored triage assessment, making a referral when indicated and jointly creating a safety plan with an agreed and explicit reference to removal of access to means.

Suicidal people are extremely ambivalent and their life can be saved up until the final moment. Compassionate communication with people at risk of suicide can save lives, is essential to the quality of the information underpinning an assessment and can be the tipping point back to safety. Suicide mitigation highlights this ambivalence and challenges the common perception that it is not possible for someone without specialist psychiatric knowledge and training to help a suicidal individual resist acting on their suicidal thoughts. Everyone can potentially help someone with suicidal thoughts. The majority of people who end their lives by suicide are not in touch with mental health services around the time of their death. However they almost always have contact with someone.

The Connecting with People approach is an organisational response to tackling suicide and self-harm which combines compassion and clinical governance.  It involves developing awareness, knowledge and skills, whilst tackling stigma and building emotional resilience. The approach is strongly evidenced based and uses a set of clinical tools (peer reviewed and published) that promote quality and consistent care particularly at times of triage, referral and transition between services.  Modular training builds knowledge, skills and compassion.  Clear structure and recording of information ensure excellent governance.

The Connecting with People approach and clinical tools were designed to fit a specific gap in provision, rather than to duplicate what is already available. This is an example of how the third sector can work effectively in partnership with the NHS and other statutory organisations to improve safety. Suicide prevention is everyone’s problem and we are all part of the solution. The question we all should be asking is: What can be done to enable this person to not want to end their life today…this week…this month?

Dr Alys Cole-King Biography:

Dr Alys Cole-King MB, BCh, DGM, MSc, FRCPsych Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist (Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board) and Director ‘Connecting with People’ – a social enterprise

Alys is the Royal College of Psychiatrists spokesperson on suicide and self-harm, a member of their Patient Safety Group and has contributed to several College Reports.  Alys sits on the Royal College of General Practioners (RCGP) Mental Health Training Group, has contributed to RCGP and RCPsych curricula, delivered keynote presentations and published internationally. She works nationally with Royal Colleges, professional and voluntary bodies, sporting organisations, patient/carer groups, researchers and contributes to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Suicide and Self-harm Prevention. She has lead international multimedia campaigns to break down stigma associated with suicide, self-harm and mental illness and to promote wellbeing. Alys co-founded Connecting with People which has pioneered a robust, evidenced based approach to suicide prevention, combining compassion and governance.  A set of clinical tools (peer reviewed, published and available in electronic format) ensures quality and consistency. She has developed online resources and training to build wellbeing, resilience and resourcefulness, compassion, mental health awareness and self-harm and suicide mitigation.

Future events of Interest:

Positive and Proactive Care Meeting the New National Guidance on Reducing Seclusion
Tuesday 20 October 2015 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Smoking Cessation in Mental Health
Tuesday 20 October 2015 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Identifying and Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence & Improving the effectiveness of MARACs
Monday 16 November 2015 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards: Ensuring Compliance in Practice
Tuesday 17 November 2015 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Information Sharing in Mental Health
Friday 27 November 2015 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Download: Dr Alys Cole-King"s full presentation

15 October 2015


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