South West Zero Suicide Collaborative

Patient Safety in Mental Health

Across the South West, the Zero Suicide Collaborative is bringing together people who have themselves tried to take their own lives, along with those who have been bereaved by suicide, to work with people in the NHS, in Local Authorities, as well as a wide range of local groups and organisations.  Together they are sharing knowledge and skills, planning for the future and developing more strategic, community-based approaches to suicide prevention.

“The Zero Suicide Collaborative is a group of people with an absolute commitment to a vision that one suicide is one too many.  There are three aspects to it:

  • Firstly, it’s a mindset, that one suicide is one too many
  • Secondly, it’s a methodology – a rigorous approach to improvement
  • And thirdly, we can see it as a marker – if we can improve the suicide rate, then we also improve many other aspects of mental health care.”

Dr Adrian James – Chair of the South West Zero Suicide Collaborative

Using the National Suicide Prevention Strategy as a framework, the collaborative was established to support local networks to develop their own prevention plans. The collaborative has gathered insights from hundreds of people from over 60 different groups and organisations to help to strengthen local suicide prevention strategies, with people with personal experience at the heart of the project, including designing the “working principles”.

The collaborative has shared and learnt from the stories of people affected by mental health crisis and suicide including families, those who have tried to take their own lives, GPs who have instigated safer prescribing protocols and A&E teams with innovative ways of patient follow up. It has identified and targeted specific groups at risk including initiatives to reach men through local pubs as well as supporting a group of people with lived experience to develop a “Letter of Hope”.

The emphasis has been on promoting the importance of evidence and how small changes can make a huge difference. By publishing regular newsletters, hosting events and developing a simple website, the group has been able to involve and keep in touch with a much broader range of stakeholders and bring a wider number of perspectives into the discussion about how local suicide prevention strategies can be developed and delivered to maximise impact. This has meant reflecting on the most effective ways to communicate with local people and communities, constantly tailoring information and approaches based on audience feedback to ensure that the maximum number of people can get involved in the ways that worked best for them.

Initially, the collaborative was funded by a £154,000 grant from the West of England Strategic Clinical Network. The project then secured a second grant of £40,000 from the South West Peninsula Academic Health Science Network. Together these grants have covered six major events as well as part time staffing costs. Future funding is currently being sought from a range of sources including the Big Lottery fund.

In August 2016, the South West Zero Suicide Collaborative won the National Patient Safety in Mental Health Award with funding and support coming from the South West Academic Health Science Network and the Strategic Clinical Network. Now in their 8th year, the Awards continue to recognise and reward outstanding practice within the NHS and independent healthcare organisations for innovations within the patient safety arena.

“There is so much to celebrate about the work of the Collaborative.  We have heard stories of differences being made, & probably of lives being saved.   People have shared ideas and have learned  things that they’re now using in their own areas of work that they never knew about before.  Borrowing ways of doing things differently.  That is wonderful to see.”

Mary Ryan –  Personal experience of suicidal thoughts and attempts

“Because the Zero Suicide Collaborative has been involved, awareness has been raised, and we have now rolled this posters campaign out from one pub to ten pubs, in the hope that we can then roll out to 140 pubs across the St Austell Brewery.   Then who knows, because other breweries may well pick it up.”

Ellie Pitt – Samaritan volunteer and Landlady of the William IV pub in Trur0