Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. We provide, on call, a 24-hour lifeboat search and rescue service and a seasonal lifeguard service. With our lifeboats, lifeguards, safety advice and flood rescue we are committed to ending preventable loss of life at sea.

The RNLI currently has a total of 237 lifeboat stations and 215 lifeguard units, rescuing over 10,000 people and saving over 400 lives in 2014. It is primarily a volunteer organization reliant on the good will and dedication of willing people to make this work possible. Currently this network stretches more than 31,500 volunteers in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

However, despite the best effort of our lifesavers, around 400 people accidentally die, in, on and around the waters of the UK with a further 200 water-related suspected self-harm and suicide events every year. In 2014, launches to suspected self-harm and suicide incidents accounted for over 1,000 services.  In response to this the RNLI is committed to growing our preventative action, using our expertise to work in partnership locally, nationally and internationally to prevent drowning from all causes.

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

The RNLI is currently looking at how the organisation might contribute to the reduction in water-related suicides around the UK and Republic of Ireland. Initially we are focusing on the following objectives:

• Through research and risk analysis better understand the extent and profile of water-related suicide and self-harm in the UK

• Work with and support agencies with expertise in suicide prevention to develop joint projects that contribute to collective goals in suicide prevention

• Develop our understanding of how we might better enable our staff and volunteers in suicide awareness and suicide prevention

• Develop a strategy that outlines the RNLI’s approach to water-related suicide prevention that will contribute to the national goals and priorities.

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What are your current priorities?

Through research we will improve our understanding of water-related self-harm and suicide, learn about current suicide prevention interventions and consider the transferability of interventions to coastal and inland waters. This will allow us to plan how the RNLI could contribute to suicide prevention as a whole. We will develop lasting partnerships with agencies with knowledge and expertise in suicide prevention and explore opportunities to work together on joint initiatives.

Suicide awareness and prevention training will be explored and how we might better equip our staff, crew and volunteers with the appropriate level of suicide awareness and prevention training so they are more able to recognise triggers and warning signs in themselves and others.

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What challenges are you currently facing?

Whilst our crews and lifeguards are often at the front line in responding to incidents of this nature, suicide prevention is a new area of involvement for the RNLI and we must develop our knowledge and understanding. The development of partnerships and collaboration with other agencies with expertise and experience in suicide prevention is therefore vital for us to move forwards.

We are also aware that the complex causes of self-harm and suicide are outside the direct control of the RNLI, as such the focus of our work will be to support other organisations more able to address them.

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