The Zero Suicide Policy challenges – Dr David Fearnley
Dr David Fearnley is Associate National Clinical Director for Secure Mental Health for NHS England. He looks at the Zero Suicide Policy introduced at the Trust in 2015 and the impact that deaths from suicide are having.
"Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
Yet prevention remains difficult – so many times people will say that it was a complete surprise when someone they knew died by suicide.
The reluctance to talk about our emotional life is perhaps one of the toughest issues for men to tackle – how do we cope if we become aware of thoughts of suicide in others and perhaps even ourselves?
The stigma is profound. We still use phrases such as ‘committed suicide’, reminding us of the days when suicide was a crime that people ‘committed’.
The concept of ‘zero suicide’ grew out of frustration about the existing approaches to suicide prevention in the US. It challenges to some extent the prevailing wisdom that suicide is inevitable for some people when they hit rock bottom.
The idea of ‘zero suicide’ provokes debate about how much more we might be able to do in the future to avoid such tragedies. It is very hard to look back and think that perhaps something was missed, and the ‘zero suicide’ approach recognises up front that such ambition has no place at all for blame.
However, the evidence base for achieving ‘zero suicide’ is limited. That is why it is so important to measure any ‘zero suicide’ initiative, any such innovation, to quickly identify whether or not it helps prevent suicide.
Perhaps the best known example of a ‘zero suicide’ programme is that of the Henry Ford Hospital System, Detroit. They pioneered a perfect depression care pathway, with zero suicide as the key outcome measure. Their data show a dramatic reduction in suicide over a ten year period, eventually reaching zero.
Dr Ed Coffey led this work and visited Mersey Care in 2013 and 2014 to share the insights and lessons learned from the programme. This was an inspirational moment for Mersey Care, leading to a strong desire to emulate the ambition and success of the Detroit pioneers."
Towards Zero Suicide: Preventing Suicide, Saving Lives
Thursday 15 September
ICO Conference Centre, London