Hundreds attend first Suicide Prevention Conference in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent

A commitment to achieving an ambition of zero suicides in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent was the focus of a major event hosted by the Together We’re Better health and care partnership.

Almost 300 people from health and care services, alongside voluntary and community groups, schools, colleges and other organisations came together for the Suicide Prevention – Making a Difference Together Conference, held in Stoke-on-Trent.

Together We’re Better’s Mental Health programme is aiming to reduce the number of suicides across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. A Zero Ambition Suicide Charter setting out this aim was signed at the event by a number of TWB partners.

The event heard from a range of specialists on the day; however, the most powerful stories were given by those whose lives have been touched directly by suicide or of feeling suicidal and who spoke of the importance of communication.

An update was given on the work of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Suicide Prevention Strategy, which has included the development of an action plan for area, suicide prevention training being provided for primary care and a number of frontline services, and draft guidance being produced for the development industry to address suicide risks in public buildings.

The conference, which was opened by Mental Health programme Senior Responsible Officer and North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust Chief Executive Caroline Donovan, also featured a number of workshops along with a surprise recorded video message from World’s Strongest Man and Stoke-on-Trent resident Eddie ‘The Beast’ Hall, who championed the zero suicide ambition.

Dr Buki Adeyemo, joint clinical lead for TWB’s Mental Health programme and chair of the event, said: “75 per cent of people who take their own life haven’t come into contact with mental health services. That’s why it’s important we raise awareness and work in partnership and it’s one of the reasons we wanted to launch a Suicide Charter as we affirm our commitment to achieving our ambition of zero suicides in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

“I was touched by the personal stories of those who have been able to share the impact suicide has had on their lives and the hope they have been able to express.”

Dr Waheed Abassi, joint Clinical Director for the Mental Health programme, said: “Reducing suicides in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent is a key priority for the programme, and the event really focussed our thoughts on what more we can do to support those at risk of taking their own life.”

Dr Abid Khan, joint Clinical Director for the Mental Health programme, said: “One suicide is one too many. By coming together to listen to the experiences of people who have been impacted by suicide, alongside the clinical expertise of internationally renowned speakers, I feel we are better equipped to tackle this hugely important area.”

Simon Whitehouse, TWB Director, said: “The excellent attendance at this first Together We’re Better Suicide Prevention Conference underlined just how seriously this hugely important area is being taken locally – not only by our health and care services, but also the voluntary and community sector, schools, colleges, the emergency services and many other groups and organisations.

“The signing of the Suicide Charter exemplifies the collaborative way we are working to ensure the ambition of zero suicides is realised in our area. I thank our Mental Health programme for holding this event.”

Click below to watch a short video showcasing  the day: