Although fears that the mental health impact of lockdown would lead to a spate of suicides did not materialise, islanders are being warned not to be complacent about the lasting impact of the pandemic.
As we enter a new year, the Jersey Suicide Prevention Alliance has issued a strong reminder that everyone has a part to play in the prevention of suicides, for which we should aim for zero...
"Recent research into how we perceive suicide indicates that many of us are uncomfortable unsure and not fully aware of the reasons why people die in this way.
It is understandable given that it is a subject that has at times been taboo and is still associated with a certain amount of stigma.
Pictured: "We are not immune to the social factors which impact on other countries."
Although it is a significant global threat claiming over 800,000 lives annually, it receives relatively little attention or consideration compared to other public health issues.
When attempting to prevent suicide it is worth remembering that there is no country or jurisdiction which claims to have got it right. Annual mortality figures vary over time with factors such as economic recessions increasing the number of people thinking about and dying from suicide.
Jersey is no different with our annual per capita rates of deaths from suicide sometimes higher and sometimes lower than other western countries such as the UK. We are not immune to the social factors which impact on other countries.
Pictured: "For every suicide, an estimated 135 people are directly affected and the average economic loss from every suicide is in the region of £1.67 million."
What we do know is that for every suicide, an estimated 135 people are directly affected and the average economic loss from every suicide is in the region of £1.67 million – a significant figure when multiplied by average annual deaths and just one reason why effective suicide prevention is a necessary public health practice.
When working to prevent suicide it is important to recognise that all the research evidence clearly demonstrates that predicting who and when someone will die from suicide is almost impossible.
However the research does tell us that certain groups and individuals within our community will be at more risk or more likely to be at risk from suicide than others. Risks can vary across our life span.
Pictured: "In order to prevent suicide we must work together."
A range of factors such as bullying, adverse childhood experiences, addiction, isolation, mental health issues, pain, physical illness unemployment are linked to suicide. No one factor will account for the increase in risk. It is when we have a mix of psychological, physical social and environmental risk factors coming together that the risk of suicide increases. In order to prevent suicide we must work together.
To help address this issue locally, the Jersey Suicide Prevention Alliance has been formed to bring the community and health services closer together. We want to offer our community a resource centre upon which everyone can draw upon to ensure a consistent evidence based approach to suicide prevention is adopted across the island. We as in – government, the health service, charities, parishes, corporates, schools and individuals will all benefit.
The subject of suicide prevention can be split into three main areas, namely increased awareness throughout our community, prevention through people accessing the help they need and support for those bereaved through suicide.
Pictured: "We aim to provide our community with a better understanding of suicidality, work together to implement actions which decrease the risks, share our skills and knowledge and reduce the barriers to seeking help."
The Alliance aims to act as a central local suicide prevention hub. We will works with and be supported by national organisations such as the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, the Zero Suicide Alliance and Suicide Bereavement UK.
We aim to provide our community with a better understanding of suicidality, work together to implement actions which decrease the risks, share our skills and knowledge and reduce the barriers to seeking help.
The alliance will encourage greater transparency and awareness of local suicide risk factors and data, assess trends and other factors to ensure that the appropriate risk areas are focused on. It will also ensure that national standards of bereavement support are immediately available in the event of a sudden death, co-ordinating the response to minimise the devastating impact on families, friends and colleagues.
Much has been said about the likely impact of the covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns in regard to mental health and suicide, initial research indicates that in most developed countries there was no increase in suicides during 2020 and early indications suggest that this was also the case in Jersey. This does not mean that we can become complacent – the impact of the ongoing pandemic will last for many years and a co-ordinated suicide prevention strategy is more important now than ever.
Pictured: "it is vital to know what to say and where to seek help if concerns are raised."
Everybody has a part to play – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, hairdressers, taxi drivers, bar staff and all other professions where an informal conversation with a customer may lead to a warning sign being spotted and it is vital to know what to say and where to seek help if concerns are raised.
The Alliance’s key ethos is that every suicide is preventable and will base its work on this assumption – there is no acceptable number other than zero. We firmly believe that a long-term reduction in annual suicides is possible and will work hard to ensure that as few islanders as possible are lost in this most traumatic manner."