A local healthcare leader and former nurse who lost his brother to suicide is urging health and care staff to look out for their own and each other’s mental wellbeing.
Jim Barwick is Chief Executive of Leeds GP Confederation, one of over 140 health and care organisations to have signed up to support a new West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership (WYHHCP) suicide prevention campaign.
Launched on ‘Time to Talk’ day (4 February), the campaign is targeted at more than 100,000 health, care, voluntary and community service colleagues working in organisations large and small across the West Yorkshire and Harrogate area. It aims to get people in the workplace talking about mental health to prevent the risk of suicide.
Mr Barwick said: “Suicide is generally a really difficult thing to talk about but the important thing is that we do talk about it.
“You hear lots of stories about people who take their own life and often, in response, people say: “But they had everything going for them” but I think, well no, perhaps that’s not what they thought. The truth is you just don’t know sometimes. That’s why it’s important to remain open and available to talk to one another.
“Not just relatives but also your colleagues; that person in your team, or in the tea room, who just doesn’t seem themselves. In any group you interact with there might be someone who needs to open up and speak to someone they know. They may seem absolutely fine on the surface but deep down they might not be.
“The pandemic and its enforced isolation has made it harder for us all to keep conversations going and to nurture our own personal mental health. We need to have more conversations about our mental health, and the new West Yorkshire check in campaign is a timely reminder to ask people how they are and then make sure we really listen to what they say in return.
“If you’ve been feeling distressed or you’ve noticed someone else may need some help please reach out to ask for, or to offer, that help. Whatever you do, please don’t remain silent.”
Preventing suicide in targeted areas by 2022 is one of WYHHCP’s 10 big ambitions. National figures published by the Office of National Statistics last September show that the Yorkshire and the Humber region had the highest suicide rate in England: there were 12 suicides per 100,000 people between 2017 and 2019.
WYHHCP’s ‘Check-in’ campaign aims to prevent staff suicide and promote a wellbeing culture by normalising the conversation around suicide and mental health as well as providing training, including links to credible sources such as the Zero Suicide Alliance, and signposting to support in and out the workplace.
The campaign, co-produced with people who have direct experience of suicide, including Mr Barwick, has been created by staff coming together from NHS services, councils, Healthwatch and community groups, including the Samaritans and Platform 1 in Huddersfield.
WYHHCP has secured funding from NHS England/NHS Improvement of more than £1million to develop and maintain a mental health and wellbeing hub for all staff working in health and care services in West Yorkshire and Harrogate. The campaign will link to this important support.
Rob Webster, CEO Lead for WYHHCP said: “While people at risk of suicide may try to hide how they are feeling, they often give out warning signs, when at work. You might notice changes in their behaviour or be aware of events in their life that could be affecting them. Many of us may be unsure what to say, or how to approach the situation. By knowing what to look for, having the skills and confidence to have a conversation and provide support, you can make a huge difference to someone’s life. I’m urging everyone to get involved so they know the signs and how to respond by doing the online training provided at www.zerosuicidealliance.com “
Tim Ryley, Chief Executive of NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, one of the organisations that has signed up to support the campaign, said: “No matter where they work or what they do, health and care staff work incredibly hard and this can take its toll. We want to help create a culture across Leeds and the wider region where people feel comfortable talking about how they’re feeling, are honest with themselves and their colleagues if they’re struggling, and reach out for support if they need it. This campaign and the wellbeing hub it links to will be invaluable in helping us achieve that, and ultimately, will help us continue to provide the best health and care for everyone.”
If anyone needs support with their mental health, help is available:
- West Yorkshire mental health helpline: 0800 183 0558. The service is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- MindWell is the mental health website for people in Leeds mindwell-leeds.org.uk.
- Children and young people can visit the MindMate website for information and support about their emotional health and wellbeing: mindmate.org.uk
- Further advice and resources can be found on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/
Support for people in crisis is also available:
- Connect – a survivor-led local helpline which offers emotional support and information to people in Leeds every night from 6pm-2am on 0808 800 1212. Connect also provides online support through instant chat for people – lslcs.org.uk Connect specialises in working with people at risk of suicide and self-harm and those with complex mental health needs.
- Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s (LYPFT) Single Point of Access (SPA) – if you, or someone you’re worried about, needs urgent care or treatment for a mental health crisis call the SPA on 0800 183 1485 (open 24/7, every day).
- Anyone whose life is in immediate danger should call 999.