Zero Suicide Alliance

Mersey Care has a strong reputation as a Trust leading on mental health. As we’ve been joined by new services and valuable staff in the community and in learning disability, and as we work to bring together a fully person-centred approach to care, I make no apology for returning us today to a central issue of mental health.

Because, quite simply it is possible that 17 people in this country may take their own life today. We can do something about this.

If 20 British long haul aeroplanes crashed every year,there would be a national outcry, demands for change, a long hard look at systems and processes and funds diverted to things that would quickly make the most difference to the problem. This week, we have started that public outcry for people thinking of, or affected by, suicide.

The Zero Suicide Alliance came together yesterday for the first time. I was at Westminster with the Secretary of State for Health, representatives of charities, major employers, CCGs and with politicians from several political parties, as we united to address the challenge of suicide prevention. 

The Zero Suicide Alliance believes that no death by suicide should ever be regarded as either acceptable or inevitable. Each and every single death has an incalculable impact on those who knew the deceased and each instance has huge impact on society, the local community and its resources.

The Secretary of State, the Lib Dem’s Norman Lamb and also one of our local MPs, the former shadow mental health minister, Luciana Berger, spoke at the Westminster event. That level of backing is welcome. Luciana told guests that the Zero Suicide Alliance is about giving each of us a role in raising public awareness: “We leave today with a resolve that simply reducing suicide rates is not enough; we all need to collectively and individually use our influence to create that burning sense of urgency to engage the top of the system down so that funding and support is given to the people and organisations who can have the biggest influence on suicide rates now.”

My challenge to our partners in Westminster was, if zero isn’t the right number, then what is the right number? Talking about zero means we reset our views to eradicating suicide, as we want to eradicate death from HIV or cancer, or in our Trust, aim for zero restraint.

Once we as an organisation said that we didn’t want to see anyone die in our services, we realised that the access to training was long and expensive – those costs would challenge most organisations. But we want to do this. So we worked hard to co-produce something with those who can bring personal experience to get across the message not just for health professionals, but to everyone.

Already, nearly 4,000 members of staff at all levels across Mersey Care have had level 1 suicide prevention training. We want more people to have that training, and with it needing just 20 minutes of your time it’s not a big ask. Please share the link with your family and friends. You could help us towards that million. More importantly, you could save someone’s life.

I want to see a million people across the country complete the suicide prevention training offered by the Zero Suicide Alliance, giving people the skills they need to approach situations where they may encounter someone with suicidal thoughts. And if they encourage their friends, their colleagues or family members to take the training, we can spread the message and move up through the hundreds of people, the thousands of people – and towards our target which will mean that finally we are equipping people to have a real conversation and help to prevent the heartbreak of suicide for the people of this country. It can be done and it should be done.

I know we can do this from those in the room in Westminster, pledging to roll out the training, I also know from the flurry of media interest including our local radio and newspapers. We’ve reached 11 million people on social media, using the reach of senior MPs and partner organisations and our “Thunderclap” to engage our Twitter followers. You can also listen to one of our peer support workers on Radio Merseyside from about 35 minutes in. The Liverpool Echo covered the event with a video and founder member Steve Mallen speaks on the ITV news. There is also a very powerful interview with our suicide prevention lead Jane Boland and Angela Samata speaking about the new ways of thinking from Radio City. My sense is that people want this and we have made a great start to the ZSA. Thank you.

Watch a short video of the Westminster event here.



Mersey Care’s ‘second’ launch yesterday was the extension of our specialist perinatal mental health service to help new and expectant mums in Merseyside. The service aims to improve access to evidence-based treatments and invest in training so that women in Cheshire and Merseyside experiencing mental health problems during pregnancy and in the first year after birth can receive consistent, high quality care. The new service has expanded considerably to a staff of eight, including a perinatal psychiatrist, a perinatal lead nurse, a team manager, four mental health practitioners and a clinical psychologist, now provided full time from 9.00am to 5.00pm.

The launch, at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, was a great success with over 100 people attending, including patients and their babies. My thanks to Noreen Clarke, perinatal lead nurse in the expanded team. Her passion was evident yesterday at the launch, and I know how proud she is of the service that will now receive the investment that it deserves.

17 November 2017