With 5,821 suicides in the UK alone, 135 people affected by each one, and many of them preventable, Dr Phil Moore, chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners’ Mental Health Commissioners Network, writes on an international collective that's addressing avoidable gaps in UK and international healthcare systems.
Did you know that around 800,000 people around the world die by suicide each year? In 2017 alone there were 5,821 suicides in the UK, and research suggests that 135 people are affected by each suicide. Avoidable gaps in the system mean that people who feel suicidal don’t have easy and ready access to help and support. But evidence shows that many suicides can be prevented - and that many more suicides are prevented in healthcare systems which provide better suicide prevention care.
This is why a group of organisations from across the globe have launched the international declaration for Zero Suicide Healthcare. The Rotterdam Declaration is a call to action to protect patients, their relatives, and staff against the tragedy of suicide. It was developed by a diverse group of leaders from over 20 countries and representing not only the healthcare sector but also academia, government, the private sector and the voluntary sector, as well as people with lived experience.
The Rotterdam Declaration outlines the new approaches that are needed to implement Zero Suicide Healthcare- a framework for care that offers an effective approach to eliminating suicides. Importantly, it is also realistic, taking account of the financial challenges that are present in all healthcare systems and emphasising both quality and efficiency.
The declaration contains five commitments which have been made by its signatories, including NHS Clinical Commissioners. Collaboration between different organisations and professionals when working with people who feel suicidal is crucial to improving care, as is using research and data to continuously improve services, and actively involving patients and their families. If these seem familiar, it’s because they were included in the NHS’s Long Term Plan.
At the heart of Zero Suicide Healthcare is the relentless pursuit to prevent suicide. One life lost to suicide is too many, and both clinicians and wider society must take the view that any suicide attempt or death is avoidable. However, we must foster a culture of recovery, learning and improvement – rather than one of blame – in those cases where a patient is lost to suicide.
We have a long way to go before we achieve our zero suicide ambition, and we must do more to be certain that people who feel suicidal have easy and ready access to help and support. With the backing of the NHS Long Term Plan, the collective commitments of the many individuals and organisations around the country and the shared wisdom of our colleagues around the world, we can make a difference.
Dr Phil Moore is a GP, chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners’ Mental Health Commissioners Network and deputy chair (clinical) of NHS Kingston CCG. Follow him on Twitter @DittonPhil
Resources and free online training to support the implementation of Zero Suicide Healthcare are available here