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Key role in suicide strategy


A Department of Health consultation was launched last week on its suicide strategy, which calls for the views of the public and NHS staff on six “areas of action”.

These include reducing the risk of suicide in high-risk groups, improving mental health in groups such as former members of the armed services and those with addictions, and providing bereavement support.

Speaking to Nursing Times, care services minister Paul Burstow asked for feedback from nurses “across the board”. He said everyone in the health service should be involved in reducing suicides, not just those in mental health.

He added nurses in A&E often made triage decisions for people at risk of suicide that “can make a big difference”.

Mr Burstow said the strategy was part of the government’s plan for mental health to have “parity of esteem” with physical health.

The University of Manchester’s National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness report, also released last week, revealed that suicide rates among mental health inpatients in England in 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, were at their lowest since 1997. Just 94 inpatient suicides were recorded in 2008, compared with 214 in 1997.


Readers' comments (17)

  • michael stone

    Suicide is very complicated - it is seen as 'a bad thing' yet it is not illegal, in England assisted suicide is illegal but not in Scotland.

    Very complicated area !

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  • " England assisted suicide is illegal but not in Scotland." If this is the case why do people need to travel to Switzerland?

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  • Yes suicide is a very complex behaviour but assisted suicide is something quite different and NOT legal in Scotland at all .

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  • michael stone | 26-Jul-2011 11:01 am

    the article is about suicide, and not assisted suicide which is a totally different issue. please lets not confuse the two here as they are both the subject of complex topics for comment and debate.

    If you wish to start on the assisted suicide debate why not use the Forums?

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  • Assisted suicide is illegal in Scotland.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 26-Jul-2011 11:47 am

    Not according to a repor tof a court case recently - in Scotland someone can effectively be charged with something related to 'murder'.
    I will try to track it down, and post it, but th earticle definitely said that Scotland does not have an assisted suicide law - however, you can still fall foul of Scottish law.

    I agree that the confusion between suicide, assisted suicide, and a person's right to refuse treatment causes complications all over the place !

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  • michael stone

    The problem with suicide, is the ethical one, assuming a person is secular.

    If a person is 'suffering only misery and unhappiness' and this cannot be relieved - if the prognosis were 'that whatever we do, this person will remain in abject (internal mental) misery for another 40 years' -then, viewed from a secular position, wouldn't that person's decision to commit suicide, be 'entirely rational' ?

    Very complicated !

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  • michael stone | 27-Jul-2011 10:48 am

    You are wrong. I am Scottish and I nurse in Scotland. Although the laws of Scotland and England differ in a range of areas, there seems to be a misunderstanding that assisted suicide in not an offence north of the border. However, it is most certainly the case that assisting or attempting to assist suicide does constitute a criminal offence. What is more difficult to predict is precisely what charge will be brought. In practice, it is most likely to be culpable homicide.

    In 1980, Robert Hunter was sentenced to two years imprisonment for ending the life of his wife who suffered from senile dementia. The judge, Lord Cowie stated that the sentence would have been longer, but for Mr. Cowie's age.(78 years).

    Recently, the High Court did not imprison David Hainsworth who had attempted to suffocate his 82 year old father. In 1996, Paul Brady pled guilty to the Culpable Homicide of his brother who was terminally ill, but was admonished. Of course, there is not the time here to go into the complexities of these cases. These judgements reflect an attitude amongst the Courts and Prosecution when dealing with this sort of case. However, this does not change the fact that assisting suicide remains a crime in Scotland.

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  • michael stone | 27-Jul-2011 10:52 am

    the discussion here is not about the rationality and ethics of suicide it is about the DoH consultation on its suicide strategy.

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  • Back to the subject of suicide. There is an excellent course which originated in Canada called ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). As a General Nurse, I had the opportunity, through work, to attend a course several years ago. It takes two days and my course was attended by nurses, police officers, teachers and community workers. Basically, it is open to anyone working with potentially vulnerable people.

    During the intensive course, we were asked to challenge our views and reactions around suicide; then we were given practical training on how to better recognise someone at risk of suicide and how to carry out an initial intervention. This is a brilliant course for those who may come across these vulnerable people in the course of their work, and who don't feel confident in their ability to deal with someone expressing suicidal thoughts. It is very much a "first aid" measure, with the expectation that ongoing and more expert support is subsequently sought.

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