Stafford’s suicide rate sparks concerns for community leader
Stafford’s suicide rate is the highest in the county a community leader has said – but work is taking place to prevent further tragedies.
Stafford Borough Councillor Louise Nixon raised the issue at the authority’s latest health scrutiny committee meeting, where she also spoke of two cases involving people who been facing benefit changes who had gone on to take their own lives.
Before the meeting she shared statistics revealing that at district level Stafford had the highest number of deaths from suicide or undetermined injury for the period 2016-2018. There were 56 deaths in the area during this time- 23 per cent of all suicides in Staffordshire.
She said: “Public Health and Prevention data supports the fact that Stafford and Surrounds remains to have the highest number and rate of suicides in the county. As a community what should we be doing about it? What can Stafford Borough and County Council do to prevent such trauma?”
Committee member Councillor Ann Edgeller, who is also Staffordshire County Council’s mental health champion, and cabinet member Mike Smith shared their own personal experiences of the issue.
Councillor Edgeller said: “I’m really pleased that an action plan has been produced. Mental health is higher on the agenda of both councils than it was years ago.
“I am possibly one of the only parents here that has had a call from police to tell me my son was ready to jump off a roof – you can imagine the stress that caused me.
“It is a cry for help for some people when they are desperately trying to seek that help, but then they go too far. What we have got to understand is if people want to commit suicide they will do it, whatever you try to do to help them.
“We have got to pick these people up when they cry for help and give them as much help as they can get. But some of these people don’t cry for help when they need it, commit suicide and we say ‘that should never have happened’."
Councillor Smith said: “I’m aware personally of two suicides. When I first moved to where I live now my doctor committed suicide – I understand the suicide rate amongst the medical profession is one of the highest.
“The other person I knew who committed suicide was my brother in law. He committed suicide because he owed thousands of pounds to drug barons in Manchester.
“There are many reasons for suicide – not just the reasons Councillor Nixon is talking about.”
Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for community and health, spoke of the work being carried out by Staffordshire County Council to tackle suicide. He said that the borough council was continuing to with the county council as part of an action plan.
Councillor Pert said: “Any death which is premature is a tragedy – whether that’s from cancer, heart attack or at someone’s own hand.
“Stafford Borough Council is doing a variety of things as part of their contribution to the action plan. We commission (solvent abuse charity) Re-Solv, who do sections around mental health and wellbeing, and we also provide information and advice on mental health and wellbeing on our schools website.
“If we have any concerns presented to us they are referred to the vulnerability hub and borough council staff are already looking to deliver mental health training.”
Councillor Jonathan Price, cabinet member for environment, added that the authority provided funding for bereavement support services in the borough.
The meeting took place the same week the authority, along with Stoke-on-Trent City Council, local hospitals and NHS community services, launched the #TalkSuicide campaign to raise awareness of the issue and make it easier for people to discuss it.
Each month 10 people lose their lives through suicide in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent – and the highest rate in the area is among men in their 40s and 50s.
Dr Johnny McMahon, cabinet member for health, care and wellbeing at Staffordshire County Council said: “The reasons for suicide can be complex and brought on by many different issues or worries, and as we know, it can have a devastating effect on families and local communities.
“We know that most of us really don’t like to talk about suicide and that’s why people who are in need of help don’t usually ask for it. But simply talking and listening to someone who is thinking about suicide can be lifesaving and can help them on their road to recovery.
“Through our #TalkSuicide campaign we want to make everyone more aware of the signs which show that someone that they know may be contemplating suicide and to have the confidence to talk to them about it. Knowing the right thing to say could save a life.”
Sir Neil Mackay, Chair of Together We’re Better, the health and care partnership for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent said: “Suicide is a complex issue that has been made more difficult by the Covid-19 pandemic which has made more people feel isolated and caused so much uncertainty and placed extra strain on relationships.
“However help has never stopped being available to people who need it and I would encourage anyone who is concerned about their mental health to seek support. It will be delivered in a way that is supportive and Covid safe.”
For more information on the campaign and support and training available visit staffordshire.gov.uk/talksuicide
* If you have been affected by this article, you can call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit Samaritans.org.
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