Public Health Devon

Public Health Devon has been part of Devon County Council since 2013, when most public health functions were made the responsibility of local authorities. The Public Health vision is for everyone in Devon to live as healthy and fulfilling life as possible, in strong supportive communities.

The overarching aims of Public Health Devon are to:
• Improve health and wellbeing for everyone in Devon
• Narrow health inequalities in health and wellbeing in Devon
We will work to achieve this through:
• Making the best possible use of funding to secure effective public health services that support people in Devon to be healthy, and that target the most disadvantaged
• Maximising our influence on a wide range of partners including the health and care system

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

Suicide Prevention is everyone’s business. The Local Authority has a responsibility to produce and deliver an annual action plan to prevent suicide, and they do this in partnership with health, blue light and statutory services, and the voluntary sector and communities. Public Health Devon takes the lead on suicide prevention on behalf of Devon County Council, facilitating a strategic group to oversee delivery of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan. Public Health Devon works closely with others to deliver activities and share learning, including colleagues in neighbouring public health teams, in local mental health trusts, as well as regional and nationally with Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, NHS England, NCISH, the national Suicide Prevention Programme and other key stakeholders working in suicide prevention and related fields.

A copy of the current Devon County Council Suicide Prevention Plan which details local needs, current funding and projects, as well as priorities for action can be found on the Devon Health and Wellbeing website here.

Key ongoing areas of work include:
Public Health Devon collaborates with colleagues in the Plymouth and Torbay Public Health teams to deliver these areas of work which are funded and delivered across the Devon Integrated Care System –
• Safer suicide communities – grant funded grassroots initiatives
• Safer suicide primary care – developing training for all primary care staff
• Communications and media reporting – ensuring reporting of potential suicides are within recommended guidelines
• Understanding self-harm and suicide research – led by partner Public Health team, learning to be shared across ICS
• Real Time Surveillance System – in place to collect information regarding potential suicides across the county of Devon (system hosted in local suicide bereavement service)
• Suicide Bereavement training – delivered by local suicide bereavement service
• Men’s Mental Health Project – training for barbers through Lions Barber Collective

Work will begin shortly to further develop the public facing profile of suicide prevention in Devon to ensure information is available locally for people, communities, professionals, and services to access when they need it. This will include local strategies, training offers, support and bereavement services as well as links to other relevant local and national services.

What are your current priorities?

Devon County Council continues to adopt the seven priority areas of the National Suicide Prevention strategy, as well as the priorities for short-term action identified by the Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group.

In addition to those national priority areas, the local priorities agreed for 2021-22 are:
• Prevention of suicide in public places
• Developing a Postvention Hub
• Exploring the links between suicide and domestic and sexual violence and abuse
• Suicide and self-harm in children and young people
• Engaging people with lived experience
• Wider determinants – risks: including loneliness and isolation, and financial hardship

A process will begin in early 2022-23 to agree any new priorities.

What challenges are you currently facing?

Building on the foundations of the Devon County Council Suicide Prevention Strategic Group and expanding membership to ensure the best placed people and organisations are enabled to lead on specific priority areas, rather than Public Health Devon taking the lead in all areas.

The pandemic will continue to influence capacity and resource within local systems that may potentially limit the pace and extent of progress on priority areas, while the existing and emerging impacts of the pandemic on inequalities and mental health and wellbeing for people and communities may simultaneously increase needs and demands for support and services.