New Suicide Prevention Guidelines Published by NICE

Peter Russell

September 10, 2019

New guidelines to reduce suicide rates and help people bereaved by a suspected suicide were published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The quality standard was issued to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day.

It followed figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month which showed that the suicide rate in the UK rose in 2018 for the first time in 5 years.

This included an increase in suicides among young people, and the highest suicide rates on record for women under 25 years.

There were 11.2 deaths recorded as suicide per 100,000 people in 2018, up from 10.1 in 2017, ONS figures showed.

Prevention Partnerships

Quality statements from NICE said that:

  • Local organisations should work together to implement a range of interventions to prevent suicide, including addressing risk factors such as self-harm

  • Multi-agency suicide prevention partnerships could reduce access to methods of suicide

  • Prevention partnerships should adopt a local media plan to encourage news outlets to avoid irresponsible reporting of suicides and suicidal behaviour

  • Adults with suicidal thoughts or plans should discuss whether they would like their family, carers, or friends to be involved in their care

  • People bereaved or affected by a suspected suicide should be given information and offered tailored support

Tailored Support

Prof Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE said in a statement: "Suicide can [be] a devastating and traumatic experience for anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one. It is a difficult subject to talk about and too often it’s not clear what help is available.

"Bereavement support can help reduce the risk of those affected by a suicide taking their own life. It is important that service providers such as police, hospitals, ambulance services, and GPs identify people to give information to and to ask if they need help.

"No one should have to go through the unexpected death of someone dear to them alone, and by offering information and tailored support, those affected can be supported both emotionally and practically."

Tailored support should be focused on a person's individual needs, NICE said. As well as professional support, it could include:

  • Support from trained peers who have been bereaved or affected by a suicide or suspected suicide

  • Adjustments to working patterns, or the regime in residential custodial and detention settings

  • Other support identified in guides by Public Health England and the National Suicide Prevention Alliance

A booklet developed by PHE and the NSPA, Help is at Hand , was highlighted by NICE as a good resource for offering emotional and practical support for people bereaved by a suspected suicide.

'More Needs to Be Done About Self-harming'

Jacqui Morrissey, assistant director of research and influencing at the Samaritans commented: "The introduction of self-harm to the national suicide prevention strategy was a positive step in the right direction and we're pleased to see self-harming in young people recognised as a priority this year. However, the Government still lacks a clear plan on how to reach those who self-harm, particularly young people and those who aren’t engaged with health services.

"The increase in self-harm amongst young people is extremely worrying and we need a better understanding of what’s causing this trend and how we reverse it. We also need more evidence on the link between self-harm and suicide, on effective ways to prevent self-harm, and how best to support those who self-harm."

Northern Ireland, which continues to have the highest suicide rate in the UK published a suicide prevention strategy to reduce suicide and self-harm over the next 5 years.

Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, said the strategy aimed to reduce suicide rates by 10% by 2024. "One of the aims is to deliver suicide prevention services and support, with a particular focus on deprived areas where self-harm rates are highest and suicide rates are over 3.5 times higher than those in the least deprived areas," he said.

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