Lonely girl looking suicidal

Council wants to prevent suicides


Tuesday 16th January Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s Community and Well-Being Committee considered local suicides.

In 2019, the Borough Council launched its Health & Wellbeing Strategy (HWBS), recognizing a concerning suicide rate of 10.4 per 100,000 residents from 2016-2018—higher than the Southeast’s 9.2. A total of 21 lives were tragically lost. To address this, mental and emotional wellbeing became a priority in the borough’s HWBS and subsequent action plan. However, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the plan’s execution.

Since the HWBS approval in late 2019, the borough has witnessed a spike in suicide rates, reaching 14 per 100,000 residents between 2018-2020—claiming 29 lives, with 19 being male. The Southeast’s rate during this period was 10.1 per 100,000. To counteract this alarming trend, the Council proposes an assertive response in the form of a revised Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

The increase in suicides is reminiscent of a previous increase observed from 2009 to 2013 during a period of significant financial hardship. Recent changes in the standard of proof used by coroners, shifting from ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ to ‘on the balance of probability,’ might impact the recorded number of suicides.

In March 2023,  the Council’s Health Liaisons Panel supported the development of a Suicide Prevention Action Plan (SPAP). This plan aligns with Surrey County Council’s Suicide Prevention Strategy 2023-2026, emphasizing six priorities for suicide prevention.

The Council’s SPAP, rooted in Surrey’s broader strategy, aims to:

– Enhance the response to individuals in crisis with suicidal thoughts.

– Foster collaboration with Public Health Surrey County Council, statutory partners, and the community & voluntary sector.

– Collaborate with Public Health Surrey County Council to utilize real-time surveillance data for meaningful and effective SPAPs.

Specifically referencing the Alison Todd Protocol, an assessment tool identifying areas of practice and growth, the SPAP demonstrates the Council’s commitment to suicide prevention. The plan, to be led by the Council’s Community Development Team, spans from January 2024 to January 2025 before undergoing review.

Cllr Kate Chinn (Labour Court ward) was concerned about Council staff who might not assess the risk of suicide correctly and the effect on them if a resident subsequently died. She was assured that training would be given and support for staff provided in that situation.

The committee adopted the plan unanimously.

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