In 2019, 18 people killed themselves every day in the UK – a two decade high. Though the 2020 figures have not yet been released, there is widespread expectation that the suicide rate will spike. Coronavirus, has made more apparent that our mental health system is not structured in a way that effectively prevents suicide.
To describe a typical journey – an individual attempts suicide. If they survive, they go to A and E where they are checked over physically and they meet with a psychiatric liaison team. In most cases they are referred back to their GP within 24 hours. At this point the GP can prescribe medication and/or direct them to IAPT services, usually Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
CBT is the most commonly prescribed mental health intervention. It gives people strategies for coping with poor mental health. There are three crucial things to consider:
1) There is no evidence that indicates it is an effective intervention for the suicidal.
2) People wait an average of 14 weeks to access CBT.
3) CBT programmes do not accept those at high risk of suicide, those with an addiction or those with a dual diagnosis.
So after three months waiting, you either complete a programme that lacks evidence to suggest it will help you or you are rejected from the programme. Most at this point, disengage from services until their next attempt. We know from Coroners Reports that too often people fall through this gap in services.
We have created a revolving door that heightens suicide risk rather than reduces it. It is government policy that all deaths by suicide are preventable. And yet the ineffectiveness of the current approach suggests we err towards, ‘some can’t be helped’. If zero suicides is the aim then it’s time to change.