To mark World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September) this blog comes from three of the many people who are helping to create a suicide free West Yorkshire. 

Dr Lisa Edwards has lived experience of suicide following the death of her son. She is an Academic at the University of Bradford, a member of the Bradford Suicide Prevention Group and a Trustee of the Charity Grassroots Suicide Prevention.

Losing a loved one to suicide can be devastating for everyone who knew the person in any capacity.  It is not only their family and friends who are bereaved. It is important to consider the whole of the wider community and anyone involved in a loved one’s care, including any mental or physical health services. Research tells us that for each suicide there are 135 people ‘exposed’ to that death (Cerel 2019).  Being ‘exposed’ means that they are affected in some way, and this is not dependent on the relationship with the person who took their own life.  Being a bereaved mother and understanding in the most painful way, the far-reaching impact of suicide first-hand, has taught me that as much as possible needs to be done from a multi-sector viewpoint to prevent suicide. 

In the few years since my sons’ death, progress has been made, but we need to keep moving forwards. We have dedicated research groups in the UK trying to understand and prevent suicide and share examples of good practice in suicide prevention initiatives. You can find a link to these here.  Working together in a multi-sector approach where everyone plays their part, including every one of us in society, is the only way we will prevent suicides in our communities. Everyone has their part to play no matter who you are or who you work for.  There are many vulnerable groups we need to work with and who need to be considered. The NCISH Annual report  2021 is a good starting point to understand suicides in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Playing my part across West Yorkshire and within my own circles to prevent suicide, and helping those who are bereaved, is the least I can do.

Jessica Parker is the Suicide Prevention Project Manager for the Partnership and is working with people and partners to create a five-year Suicide Prevention strategy for West Yorkshire.

Jessica Parker
Jessica Parker

I believe that each of us can be a force for good and make positive change. Tragically, Office for National Statistics data show that Yorkshire and Humberside have the highest suicide rates for men and for women nationally.  I want everyone to be outraged about this, and act. Suicide deaths are unbearably traumatic for loved ones, friends, colleagues, and family and have an inter-generational impact. It could be you. 

Evidence shows that there is rarely one cause of a suicide, there are often a build-up of multiple factors in a person’s life.  Common risk factors in West Yorkshire are being male, financial insecurity, living alone or in isolation, alcohol, grief, mental and physical health conditions/pain.  

The brilliant news is that suicide is preventable and every single one of us can play a part, every day.  People and communities prevent suicides, and health and care services have a huge part to play. Crushing stigma and raising awareness are key, and you can do this at home and at work.  

This partnership is creating a citizen movement which de-stigmatises suicide and enables people to name suicide, talk about it, and get help.  We have local plans and partnerships that you can join, as well as an imminent new action-focused West Yorkshire strategy.  

As partners we will try our hardest to improve support and services, and the way they deliver care.  As individuals, please be bold, talk about mental health at home, with friends, family and at work.  Complete suicide prevention or suicide awareness training. It is a fallacy that people don’t ask for help; research shows that they do.  Invite conversations, believe people, be human and be compassionate. This is not too big, or too much, or too complicated – this is about us as people, changing things and in turn changing lives.

Kat Trinder is new to the Partnership and is the Communications, Engagement and Partnerships Officer for the Suicide Prevention Programme.

Kat Trinder
Kat Trinder

It has been an exciting time to join the Suicide Prevention Programme, with my first project being the development and launch of the new West Yorkshire Suicide Prevention website. This is a resource dedicated to helping people with suicidal thoughts and those concerned for the mental wellbeing of anyone who lives in West Yorkshire.

This has been a great introduction to the organisations that coproduced this information portal, including voluntary, NHS and local authorities who are all working to reduce death by suicide in the region. But there is still more to do. My next challenge is to develop and grow the Suicide Prevention Advisory Network - a quarterly online learning and sharing forum for organisations who work to prevent suicide. If anyone would like to join us, please do drop me an email.

It is our ambition to create a growing movement for change where suicide is prevented. Talking about suicide is a good place to start. Please join the conversation around World Suicide Prevention Day using #WSPD2021.

Read the full press release here.