Bridges are designed to have a basic function to allow people to move from point A to point B with minimum risk.
Around the corner from my house there is a bridge. It is a normal footbridge over a busy dual carriageway and is aesthetically pleasing to look at but, unfortunately now it has another appeal.
Twice in the space of seven days it was used as a tool for two individuals to attempt to take their own lives. Luckily I was passing by in time to prevent the second attempt. As part of my work for the West London Trust as a nurse associate trainee, suicide awareness is a big topic – be it from a high secure forensic hospital setting to community teams. It has also been the topic of a lecture at university presented by experts from Berkshire Health Foundation Trust.
“These incidents can strike any person at any time”
We are told to be aware of risk factors in our service users, how to look for changes to baseline behaviour. We are trained to identify protective factors and we are trained in the underlying theories in the classroom.
We are aware that these incidents can strike any person at any time, but you can become used to them being contained solely in the workplace.
We all see awareness campaigns on the TV, in newspapers and magazines and on social media but still, at the back of our mind is that voice that says: “This will never happen to me”.
Unfortunately, I am proof that it does happen no matter where you are or what you are doing. If I had not received training at work and additional training as a nurse associate trainee with The University of West London, then I would not have the toolkit I currently have to have managed this incident.
This is the first time I have been involved in such a situation and I am so thankful for my training both inside and outside of work for giving me the ability to prevent the individual from taking their own life. As health professionals, almost all of you reading this will have encountered mental health crises while conducting your work duties.
There were 5,821 recorded suicides in 2017 in the UK and we all need to be aware that we can reduce this shocking statistic through our work. We should all be aware of ‘Making every contact count’. That single contact can be the ideal early prevention that the service user is after, whether we know it at the time or not.
In this case I did not know the individual, I did not know their baseline and I had to work hard to get their protective factors out of them.
As health professionals, we all know our trusts, private settings and universities have values and every single mission statement or list of values will have person-centred care involved. With this, the development of healthcare prevention is now the biggest topic with person-centred care.
The best prevention here could have simply been a health professional stopping by and making sure that every contact counted when the individual was at their GP practice, dental surgery, walk-in facility or on the end of a phone.
As health professionals you have a duty – no matter your job title – to respond to help when you hear or see it. After all, work truly never stops just because you are not on shift.
Charles Craigie is a nurse associate trainee at the University of West London