Congratulations to psychiatrist Professor Keith Hawton who has been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020 for services to Suicide Prevention. Prof. Hawton is a Consultant Psychiatrist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford.

Among a lifetime of achievements Profession Hawton’s work led to changes to the types and volumes of painkillers available to buy over-the-counter.

He has written hundreds of papers, written key books and supported numerous PhD students who have themselves gone on to make important contributions to suicide prevention.

Prof Hawton said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been recognised in this way. Having been in psychiatry in Oxford for virtually all of my working life I’d like to thank the many colleagues, including clinicians, mentors and research staff, who have supported my work on suicide and self-harm during this time. I’d particularly like to thank the trust for its support over so many years.

“I hope that Oxford psychiatry, including front-line staff, management and those leading research, can remain at the forefront of efforts to prevent suicide and self-harm, and continue to help those who are facing adversity and are potentially suicidal, especially during these particularly difficult times.”

A key figure in the field of prevention of suicide and self-harm, Prof Hawton has said of his work: “I am interested in obtaining accurate information on the extent and nature of these problems over a long time period, studying their causes, and finding out what treatments and prevention measures are effective.  We have taken a particular interest in self-harm and suicide in young people.”

Prof. Hawton and Nurse Consultant Karen Lascelles have helped Oxford Health to lead the way in suicide prevention across our region, developing workshops and key support resources for clinicians and for those who may be impacted by the death of a patient, as well as setting out the trust’s own suicide prevention strategy.

Karen Lascelles said: “I am so delighted Keith has received this honour. He has made a phenomenal difference to people’s lives and it is very richly deserved.

“The restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic will have resulted in many people feeling alone or isolated, particularly those who were already vulnerable.

“We want to make sure we are reaching out to our service users, carers and staff to help improve mental wellbeing.  Making connections and engaging with other activities can be a lifeline for many people.

“We are able to do that work because of everything Keith has put in place beforehand.”

Oxford Health CEO Dr Nick Broughton, said: “We are I believe one of the leading organisations in this area and we should be very proud of the work that Professor Keith Hawton and Karen Lascelles have been leading on behalf of the trust. It goes without saying that the prevention of suicides is an absolute priority for us.

“It is great to see Keith and this important work recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours today.”

Suicide Prevention work

Prof Hawton pioneered and led the Oxford Self Harm Monitoring System since the 1970s which has since evolved into a wider collaboration nationally. The system is a way to monitor and analyses individual patterns of self-harm, enabling researchers to understand common themes and take action to prevent or interrupt people’s suicidal thoughts and actions – and save lives. It was the use of this system which led to changes in the way over-the-counter painkillers are sold.

Prof Keith Hawton and Nurse Consultant Karen Lascelles were part of a team which developed a support video and booklet to help psychiatrists during the difficult time after a patient has died by suicide. The team is in the process of developing a similar resource for other mental health professionals.

Prof Hawton and Ms Lascelles again collaborated with colleagues on a series of resources for clinicians on preventing, assessing and managing the risk of suicide/self-harm during COVID-19, developed by our NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre. This provides a host of useful links and guidance for clinicians everywhere.