Essex records some of country’s highest suicide rates

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Essex could be “in danger of reinventing a well established wheel” in  its bid to improve some of the worst suicide rates in the country, the chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust has warned.

While Essex is planning to start a system to track suicides in real time, the most recently complied comprehensive report from 2019 showed that Essex had a significantly worst rate of suicide than the national average.

To help tackle the major issue facing Essex – a Real Time Suicide Surveillance (RTSS) – delivered by  Essex Police and supported by the Essex County Council’s Public Health team, is being rolled out in May to capture, collate and jointly access robust, timely intelligence on suspected suicides.

The council is also setting up district task and finish groups to specifically investigate the exceptionally high suicide rates in certain districts.

At a meeting of the health scrutiny board last week, Nick Hulme, CEO of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust said that Essex may be in danger of trying to develop a system when there are examples of mechanisms that have been successfully adopted already.

Perhaps the best known example of a ‘zero suicide’ programme is that of the Henry Ford Hospital System, Detroit. This programme pioneered a perfect depression care pathway, with zero suicide as the key outcome measure.

Its data show a dramatic reduction in suicide rates over a ten year period, eventually reaching zero. Mersey Care have gone on to emulate the ambition and success of the Detroit pioneers.

Mr Hulme said: “Whatever we faced in the northeast pale to insignificance in terms of the social challenges in Detroit and yet they’ve had significant success in getting very close to zero suicide. So have we looked nationally and indeed internationally at the zero suicide alliances which are developing?

“Because we could be in danger of reinventing an already well established wheel.”

Gemma Andrews, commissioning delivery manager at Essex County Council, said:  “We have gone out to the national programme and looked at other areas to ensure that we are pulling through that understanding from the national groups.”


Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter