Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness is a charity that believes a better life is possible for millions of people affected by mental illness. In 1972 one man bravely spoke about his family’s experiences of mental illness in a letter to the Times and in the process brought together hundreds to talk about their experiences of mental illness and support each other. Today we directly support almost 60,000 people every year across England to get through crises, live independently and to realise they are not alone. Our website and helplines give information and advice to 500,000 more and we change policy for millions. We carry out research to make sure we deliver real results for people, young or old. Our services, support groups, and members cover every county in England, giving us local insight and helping us spread innovations nationally. All our work is governed by people who have lived through mental illness.

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

We are lead partners with Mind, on Time to Change, the national campaign to challenge and reverse the stigma and discrimination about mental illness which often prevents people from seeking help. We run 230 services, and work with thousands of people who experience emotional distress and support them through our community, advocacy, housing and more specialist services such as help-lines and crisis houses. We signpost people to our own and other services and provide direct, recovery-based support to people in distress, encouraging them to discuss any suicidal thoughts before they reach crisis point. We facilitate over 100 peer support groups. We seek to make it more difficult to access the means of suicide by conducting wide-scale audits of all our properties and work-bases, reviewing things like window restrictors and ligature points. We provide training for our staff on suicide awareness and prevention, but want to develop this further. We collaborate with Samaritans and other mental health provides, but again would wish to develop this further. We collect information on serious incidents such as suicide attempts nationally, and monitor these monthly at our Integrated Governance Review Group.

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What are your current priorities?

Our current priorities are:

To establish a representative and cross organisational work group.

– Establish a cross departmental working group chaired by the Associate Director of Quality and Service Improvement –the group has representation from services, both specialist and generic, from Human resources, Quality and Service Improvement and Learning and Development teams representatives from children and young peoples services and helpline representation. The group was established in April 2014.

To establish terms of reference for the group.

– Terms of reference authorised by the Integrated Governance Overview Group in June 2014.

To develop a draft strategy for suicide prevention and self harm reduction across the charity’s activities.

– Suicide prevention and self harm reduction strategy to be submitted for approval by IGOG in August 2014.

For the group to develop a full work plan to address a range of development activities across the charity to promote suicide prevention and self harm reduction.

– Development of a full and detailed work plan detailing key areas of training, practice development and learning and debrief support.

To indentify specific training tools.

– Plans for use of established training tools already in use by members of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance to be part of the consultation with staff following draft work plan.

– To consider the development of specialist support tools and interventions.

– To consult with all staff via inthink on-line survey.

– To plan how to share and demonstrate learning in practice related to the prevention of suicide and reduction in self harm with the client group of people who use the charity’s services.

– To work with human resources and operational management to promote effective support to staff and users of services following serious untoward incidents related to suicide and self harm.

To develop relationships with specialist charities and agencies to share expertise and learning.

– Communication established with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance- Joe Ferns from the Samaritans is advising on the strategy, and Alison Mohammed, our Chief Operating Officer, is a co-chair of the NSPA.

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What challenges are you currently facing?

We have noticed an increase in the numbers of people expressing or attempting suicide. There has been a reduction in the statutory services available, such as crisis teams or out of hours support, for people who may be experiencing distress. We are faced with a dilemma when people express suicidal intentions to us, by phone for example. We sometimes have to contact the police to ensure the safety of such people, but those individuals can regard this as a betrayal of trust and breach of confidentiality.

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