Laura Pattison works with Leeds Suicide Bereavement Service. Before working at LSBS, Laura worked for St Gemma’s Hospice and was part of the teams which completed service evaluations for Women’s Health and Counselling and Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Centre. In her blog she explains more about the service and highlights their upcoming event.
World Suicide Prevention Day (September the 10th, if you’re wondering) is a big day for suicide prevention work in Leeds. Because it is on a weekend this year, our annual celebratory event will be held on the 12th of September at 1.30pm at St Georges Conference Centre. We’d love it if you wanted to come along.
The afternoon will be a celebration of the work Leeds Suicide Bereavement Service has done to support people after a suicide. Over the last two years we have learnt a great deal from the people we have supported. It has helped us adapt the way we work and the how we offer support. We will also take some time to share some of the key findings from our service evaluation, a big deal for a one of a kind service.
When asked to write this blog, I thought about what message I would like to convey and it didn’t take me long to realise I should answer the question I have been asked hundreds of times in one way or another in this role:
“Why is supporting people bereaved by suicide a suicide prevention approach?”
Now however many times this gets asked, I don’t get fed up of talking about it. Such questions start a conversation about our own beliefs about suicide, mental health and bereavement and I could talk about those subjects all day. So let me take you on a whistle-stop tour of how and why Leeds Suicide Bereavement Service is preventing suicides.
Supporting people affected by a suicide to avoid other negative health and social outcomes is called postvention. It was a term coined by a guy in the US in the 1960s – it sounds very American and still has a red line under it whenever I type it on my computer! Although it is new and strange sounding, it is self-explanatory: Every good suicide prevention plan should include prevention, intervention and postvention.
As a city, Leeds does a fantastic job of recording past suicide rates and the details surrounding deaths (check out the latest suicide audit here), providing great evidence to plan suicide prevention. We have amazing charities seeking to improve people mental health and support those in difficulty (Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service, Leeds Mind, Touch Stone, Inkwell and Barca to name just a few).
We know that each week 1.3 people die by suicide in Leeds and that those people will have family, friends, neighbours, workmates and many others around them who feel the impact by their death. Let’s take a low estimate of six people affected by each suicide death. That means over 520 people each year trying to cope with the traumatic death of someone they cared about in Leeds and each year that amount gets added to the year previous and so on. Now if we look at studies suggesting that people bereaved by suicide are more likely to struggle with depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts and are more likely to take their own life, you can see why postvention services are popping up nationally and internationally and why Leeds launched a flagship service like ours. (I can provide references if you want, come and catch me at our event!)
I have spoken with many people who have different theories as to why the research draws that link and of course figuring that out is important. However, for LSBS, it is not our main role. Our role is to offer one-to-one, group and family support to people after their loss. It is then an honour to watch the change in so many people once they get the support they need, not only from our service but from this hidden peer group, a group no one wants to be part off.
Our service is like no other: we are run exclusively by peers, we offer people choice of support, we are responsive and visit people days after a loss and so much more. Come and talk to us, find out how our service works and how we hope that somewhere in the future we won’t be needed anymore.
Register for tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/leeds-suicide-bereavement-service-second-year-celebration-tickets-35968236965
Links: LSLCS – www.lslcs.org.uk
Leeds Mind, www.leedsmind.org.uk
Touchstone – https://www.touchstonesupport.org.uk/
Inkwell – http://www.inkwellarts.org.uk/
Barca – http://barca-leeds.org/