The National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NPSA) is a coalition of public, private and voluntary organisations in England. Their mission is to get all parts of society working together to take action to reduce suicide and improve the support for those bereaved by suicide.
Today I attended their annual conference on ‘Empowering Communities through Collaboration’. There were more than 200 people in the room, all there to learn more about suicide prevention. The first speaker was Rt Hon Alistair Burt, Minister of State for Community and Social Care, Department of Health. He talked about ‘localism’- ways to handle the problem of suicide in communities using local people and resources, designed specifically for their needs. He talked about tackling stigma through ‘Time for Change’ , looking after those bereaved through Facing the Future and the booklet Help is at Hand . He invited questions at the end his talk.
I put Saagar’s abridged story to him and emphasised the dire need for mandatory Suicide Prevention training for medical students and GPs. I must have spoken for just two minutes and a huge applause followed. He noticed the support from the house for this proposal and promised to take it back to the DoH (Department of Health) for further discussion. Let’s see what comes of it.
Young Jonny Benjamin shared what it is like to have schizo-affective disorder and be suicidal, how difficult it is to ask for help and how quickly one can ‘flip’. He said he could never talk to his parents about his suicidal thoughts. They had given him everything and more. Telling them about these thoughts would be like throwing it all back in their faces. He still sometimes feels suicidal but knows that it will soon pass. He finds it easier to talk with strangers. He has hope. He thanked us all for doing the work we do. I understand now but I wish Saagar could have told me how he felt. I wish it was Saagar standing there and talking. I wish for time to rewind to 16 months ago. I wish I knew then what I know now.
All in all, it was a good day.