East Sussex County Council

East Sussex County Council is the upper-tier local authority covering the county of East Sussex. The main services it provides include education, roads and transport, social care, public health, waste disposal, economic development, libraries, strategic planning and environment. The County Council has 50 councillors who are elected by residents of East Sussex.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

East Sussex County Council Public Health Department are responsible for co-ordinating suicide prevention work across East Sussex. Suicide prevention initiatives are geared towards addressing the overall suicide rate in East Sussex and also addressing issues specifically related to a high-frequency location. The structures for delivering suicide prevention work are the East Sussex Suicide Prevention Group (ESSPG); a multi- agency working group responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive suicide prevention programme and a multi-agency working group, focusing on reducing suicide at a high-frequency location, the latter reports to the ESSPG. Both of these groups are chaired by an ESCC consultant in Public Health. 

2018/19 initiatives include:

· Initiated a comprehensive design led project with a wide range of stakeholders to reframe and address suicide prevention issues and actions at a well-known high-frequency location. Established a Sussex Sustainability Transformation Partnership suicide prevention group and submitted a successful wave 2 funding bid to NHS England for a wide-ranging programme of   work commencing in 2019/20. The programme manager is hosted by East Sussex Public Health.

· Commissioned Social Marketing Gateway to deliver a campaign aimed at reducing stigma, encouraging help seeking and preventing suicide in men. Phase 1 has been completed – extensive research and consultation to produce campaign materials in hard copy and digital formats. Phase 2 will see the project tie in with the Improving Access to Mental Health Services/NHS 111 initiative and the STP work stream.

· Worked in partnership with two local universities to establish a joint Suicide Safer University working group and model of practice. The Group is now established and working with  stakeholders to define and implement suicide prevention priorities.

· Provided additional funding to the Survivors of Suicide Counselling Programme to expand its service delivery in the Eastbourne area. The service is delivered by a partnership between  Sussex Community Development Association and Counselling Partnership and provides effective and timely support to suicidal individuals as well as to those bereaved by suicide.

· Conducted a Clinical Audit: ‘Risk assessment and management of adults and young people with self-harm or suicidal intent in Accident and Emergency’. The audit was carried out at the A&E departments of Eastbourne District General Hospital and the Conquest Hospital with the intention of gaining a better understanding of the pathway through A&E for patients who present with self-harm/suicidal intent.

· Engaged People in Partnership, part of Southdown Housing to bring valuable lived experience to the ESSPG going forward.

· The previously commissioned men’s suicide prevention project provided by Grassroots Suicide Prevention continued delivery and was externally evaluated by the University of East London.

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What are your current priorities?

The STP work programme will facilitate closer joint working as well as enhance local work.

There is a budget of approximately £680,000 to deliver a programme of work across the area including:

· Telephone support offering the opportunity to talk and signposting to local services and resources; the helpline will operate via NHS 111

· A Social Marketing Campaign (Phase 1 of which was commissioned by ESPH) signposting men who are suicidal to mental health support via NHS 111

· Training for primary care staff, community staff working with people with long-term conditions and for Armed Forces Personnel

· Improved provision for those bereaved by suicide

· Initiatives to address self-harm with a strong focus on children and young people

· Samaritans media work

· An innovation fund to develop small local projects

East Sussex Public Health host and manage the STP Suicide Prevention Programme Manager; who came into post in August 2019. Close links with the work of the ESSPG and the other local authority suicide prevention groups in Sussex will continue through the STP suicide prevention steering group.

Reducing access to the means of suicide: East Sussex Public Health commissioned the Design Council to facilitate an intensive work programme to understand and re-frame issues and innovative solutions to reduce suicides at a high-frequency location. The programme builds on existing partnerships and initiatives concerning the site, involves a wide range of stakeholders with a vested interest and is structured around the Design Council’s Framework for Innovation. The site attracts many people from outside the area; audit data shows that around 80% of the deaths from suicide are people who are not East Sussex residents and 10% are overseas visitors. The locations international notoriety is compounded by media attention and online suicide fora: these continue to identify the area, increasing its public profile. Whilst there is clear commitment locally to work together to address the issues, the sheer volume of suicides and number of interventions being undertaken mean that local services and commissioners are unable to source sufficient resources to implement and maintain robust solutions. The location is ultimately a national issue; national support and resourcing are required to develop a broad range of site specific actions to reduce suicide. 

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What challenges are you currently facing?

Reducing access to the means of suicide is evidenced as one of the most effective prevention activities. As referenced above East Sussex is home to a well-known public place for suicide that attracts many people from outside the area; audit data shows that around 80% of the deaths from suicide are people who are not East Sussex residents and 10% are overseas visitors. Work to address suicide at this site is complex and can result in drawing away time and resources from focusing on the wider issues and necessary actions to address the suicide prevention needs of East Sussex residents. The STP programme of work will in part address this through providing expansion of some existing work streams and commencing new initiatives.

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