Agenda item

Suicide Prevention

To receive a presentation in respect of recent activity regarding suicide prevention.


Consideration was given to a presentation by the Director of Public Health,  Public Health Specialist, and the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health in respect of the Council’s and Place Partners’ recent activity in respect of suicide prevention. This presentation follows on from a previous scrutiny discussion on this topic in September 2021. The presentation outlined the national and local context, the Rotherham Suicide Prevention and Self Harm Action Plan, workforce development, ICS-wide activity, and support services available. The presentation provided updates in response to previous recommendations including the facilitation of suicide and self-harm prevention trainings and public health work in the community.


In discussion, Members expressed interest in learning more about whether any unique factors about Rotherham could be influencing the situation. The response from officers noted the difficulty in identifying any one factor that makes Rotherham unique. It was noted that service provision for child and family health was very good, and that thinking about childhood trauma and adverse experiences was of great importance. The service and partners across the Place were focusing on vulnerable locations and ensuring actions were taken to protect people in those areas. It was noted that this was very complex. Therefore, no one thing would alleviate it, but everything done to help alleviate poverty and deprivation would also help prevent suicide.


Members requested more information regarding the high percentage of people not in contact with mental health services. Members sought assurances that efforts are being made to bring vulnerable people into contact with support. The response from officers noted the context of the high percentages was national. Locally, a third of people are known to mental health services. When signposting is offered to people, this needs to signpost people to other organisations in addition to mental health services. This is because sometimes people prefer to contact Papyrus or Samaritans, for example. People have options as to where to find help. Sometimes the best option for the person may be provided through a voluntary sector organisation. It had been observed during the pandemic that more people go where they have an existing relationship.


Members requested more information around collaboration with local authority housing services. The response from officers noted that the service does learn if people were tenants. The service communicated through the Home Matters publication to say where people can access support. The Cabinet Member noted the importance of recognising early signs and being willing to be the one to talk. With understanding of early signs, there was a better chance to help others then move forward.


Members noted the work is top class and expressed interest in knowing more about work by the service that speaks to the needs of late middle age, gender inclusively, especially taking into account the rising cost of living. The response from officers noted that there was research on groups being affected by the pandemic, and women were one of the groups that emerged. Rotherham had fortunately identified this and had done some prevention work targeting women prior to the pandemic. There is more work to be done, but

employers are doing more work around mental health implications of menopause, and there had been work with Place Partners through RotherHive. This was an area for development moving forward.


Further, Members sought assurances that circulation of support services leaflets include veterans, as veterans’ charities are working hard to overcome the effects of isolation. The response from officers noted that this is a key group to reach, and it was noted that RotherHive would include resources for veterans. It was hoped that the new National Strategy would flag up the needs of this group as well.


Co-optees from Speak Up for Autism requested additional information around support available for autistic people with suicide prevention, given that nationally there is increased risk for people with autism or ADHD. We expect to see research emerging during the forthcoming period. Locally, it can be difficult to know about the person’s identity prior to access to the coroner’s perspective and the associated records. There is training and resources are available. The intention is to ensure volunteers can access the easy read leaflets. Resources such as RotherHive and the Stay Alive app were described. Signposting was offered outside the meeting through a conversation to see how the service can help further.


Members requested comment from the service regarding a specific programme model being piloted and considered for implementation by a few local authorities in the region. The model involved a small team providing a rapid referral, seven days a week, and working intensively with people, not previously known to any service, for up to six weeks. The response from officers noted that Barnsley and Doncaster had services for people who have attempted suicide and for people who are at high risk but are unknown to any service. The response from officers noted the intention to pilot a service in early 2023 for people who have attempted or are at high risk of suicide. This is in addition to the NHS Touchstone pilot for people in crisis which is a separate service being piloted.


Members requested assurances that support is in place for volunteers and peers. Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide received support from a regional coordinator. Volunteers received training before volunteering, and they received regular check-ins. The general shortage of volunteers was also described. Many people volunteered during the pandemic, who have not necessarily continued. Keeping momentum had therefore become very important. There were volunteer organisations and people need to be trained.


Members requested an example in reflection of a change that had been made in response to learning from a review. The response from officers noted it is difficult to identify any one thing because it is so very complex. Post-suicide intervention had helped reduce the number of people taking their own life who had lost a family member. Since implementing post-suicide support, not one family had had a family member take their life. This was a form of prevention.


Members requested further details regarding the ongoing work to address loneliness and isolation. The response from officers noted the women’s ASK group. Many women have said their thought process would be very different without the group providing a safe space. Delivery of trainings also strengthened lines of defence and had resulted in people coming back days or weeks later and saying they had a conversation with a friend or a loved one or a colleague and were getting them to help.


Members requested more specifics around how long AMPARO was commissioned and when the new strategy would be reviewed. The response from officers noted that AMPARO was commissioned until 2024. The strategic plan would come through from the ICP, and the strategy would be drafted by December with suicide prevention would figure in that strategy. The national strategy was ten years old. Unless the new administration decided to refresh the strategy, this would continue. The Health and Wellbeing Board would consider the local strategy this June. The local strategy will be refreshed ahead of the national strategy because the service did not want to wait. The service had consulted with stakeholders and experts and would reflect on the national strategy when it comes out. Rotherham Place had been collecting real time data down to the hard work of partners, and Rotherham could be proud that this work was influencing the national strategy.


Members requested more specifics regarding how long it would take for someone going to their GP in crisis to receive help. The response from officers noted that Primary Care have received top tips for suicide prevention, and for that level of risk and signposting, the service expected GPs to know the appropriate steps to take. The Crisis Support in Rotherham provided on-the-day response to support people in crisis. 


Co-optees from Speak Up noted that Speak Up has assisted families with making a video about end of life planning and coping with death, which could be circulated.


Members expressed interest in knowing more about how areas may be made safer or how signs of neglect or of not coping well could be responded to. The officers noted that collaborations with enforcement teams’ work to “design out crime” had cascading effects to also make areas safer to vulnerable people. Further, the service worked with National Highways to prioritise dangerous areas. Working with local media at not reporting method to the general public, and working with Housing services to pick up on wider factors all contribute to making areas safer.




1.    That the presentation be noted, and that an update be submitted in 12 months’ time.


2.    That consideration be given to how upstream prevention work, for example, through collaborations with schools, GPs, housing services, businesses and the voluntary sector, might strengthen emotional resilience and peer support in communities.


3.    That the next update include the outcome of the safe space pilot and other peer support schemes.


4.    That the next update include assurances that volunteers are receiving the support they need, and that volunteer groups are aware of the support available.


Supporting documents: