Leading international mental health professionals meet in Oxford on 9/10 June

In the UK more deaths occur from suicide than from road traffic accidents – about 5 000 each year. Nearly one million suicides are reported each year worldwide. To help combat this major issue an expert group of mental health professionals from across the world will gather to meet in Oxford on 9 and 10 June to share vital knowledge about how best to prevent suicides.

This two-day event forms part of the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL), a highly regarded mental health programme designed to provide opportunities for innovation sharing, networking and problem solving across countries and agencies. The overall aim is to provide better outcomes for people who use mental health and addiction services and their families.

Mental health experts from the USA, Canada, Amsterdam, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Ireland and the UK will take part in a series of talks and seminars to share understanding about what works in suicide prevention and intervention. Discussion will focus on the latest research into this area, exploring how to enhance clinical practice and understanding.

The two-day event will be hosted by a collaboration that includes NHS England Thames Valley Area Team, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Oxford’s Centre for Suicide Research.

Prevention of suicidal behaviour is a major healthcare target for the UK Government, which in 2002 established a National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England (subsequently updated in 2012). Professor Keith Hawton from the University of Oxford’s Centre for Suicide Prevention, who has been central to the development of the strategy, said: “Both suicide and self-harm are extremely important public health issues and the focus of national strategies and guidance. They have major impacts on families, friends and colleagues, and are both challenging and costly for health and social services. One key way we can improve our ability to prevent suicides is by sharing knowledge with our international colleagues. I look forward to discussing how we can all tackle this source of major international concern.”

Julie Kerry, Assistant Director of Nursing, NHS England Thames Valley Area Team, said: “When a suicide happens it is devastating for everyone. Across the Thames Valley we are working as a system to prevent suicide and improve interventions. This important event gives us a unique opportunity with international colleagues to explore new ways to engage with high risk groups of people in our communities. As well as developing our understanding of the ways in which we can support GPs to help prevent suicides, we will also discuss how we can better support families who suffer bereavement. NHS England is proud to be hosting this event and look forward to welcoming our international colleagues.”

Karen Lascelles Suicide Prevention Lead Nurse at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our trust works with high risk people in both mental health and community services. We are always striving to improve our understanding of how to prevent suicides, training staff at all levels on suicide awareness. We also contribute to nurse education at universities and are committed to collaborating with other NHS trusts and non-statutory organisations to help convey the message that suicide prevention is everybody’s business. We have taken a lead role in developing the Thames Valley Suicide Prevention and Intervention Network along with the Thames Valley Strategic Clinical Network. This has the aim of improving health and community understanding of suicide, while developing resources to help signpost people to help and advice.”