In Mind: The latest blog from Chief Executive Joe Rafferty reflects on important milestones for the Zero Suicide Alliance and the Life Rooms

Zero Suicide Alliance Conference

Those of you who keep track of the news cycle will be aware that this week was an important one for the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA) and its plans for ending suicide in the UK and beyond.

Having launched the ZSA at the Houses of Parliament in November 2017, this week was our inaugural conference with nearly 140 delegates attending at the Royal College of GPs in London.

They heard a passionate opening speech from Jackie Doyle-Price, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention and watched further presentations from the three founder members of the ZSA - myself, former National Clinical Director for Mental Health at NHS England, Geraldine Strathdee and Steve Mallen, the driving force behind the MindEd Trust after losing his son Edward to suicide.

The afternoon session encouraged delegates to attend three workshops on Just and Learning Culture, Digital Resources and Public and Business Awareness Engagement. All three events were well attended and I was struck by the energy from those who attended and the levels of engagement throughout the day.

When Steve, Geraldine and I first discussed the opportunity of forming an Alliance to try to ensure a more joined up approach to suicide prevention, I’m not sure any of us were that sure of what form it would take. After nearly two years in existence we have evolved into an organisation that is no longer dependent on goodwill and now has the backing of a £2 million commitment from the Government.

I think what the conference taught me more than anything is that there is a lot of energy and consensus out there to force change and ensure no one is left feeling isolated enough to want to kill themselves. That was evident talking to people during the day and we are now developing plans regarding what the next steps are – including a further conference later this year.

Of course for the ZSA to succeed we need support from beyond those that attended in London and I was delighted to see how much interest there was on social media for what we’re doing.

During the course of the day:

  • 278 people sent over 1,000 tweets during the course of the conference
  • The ZSA conference used the hashtag #ZSAconf19 and achieved 10 million Twitter impressions
  • In the same week the number of people accessing the free online training available on the ZSA website reached over 150,000.

The image below gives an indication of just some of the people that became involved in the conference through social media.


There was also extensive coverage in the traditional media and the links for that are below. The second of the links involves Labour MP Liz Kendall talking about the ZSA at 4.55.

We are currently developing a communications strategy to help promote our suicide prevention plans further and if you haven’t already taken the training, why not do it now – it only takes 20 minutes and may just save a life:


Life Rooms anniversary

This week marked a couple of key landmarks in the Life Rooms story with the third birthday of the opening of our Walton site and the second anniversary of the opening of Southport. We have since added Life Rooms Bootle to our portfolio, in partnership with Hugh Baird College, and have plans to expand this format further across Liverpool in the future.

When we first began thinking about establishing a Life Rooms several years ago, we envisaged a hub that would be a key part of the community, offering pathways, Recovery College courses and a range of educational materials and advice that would benefit service users, carers and members of the general public.

None of us could have predicted just what a success Life Rooms would become. We have had over 85,000 visits to the three sites since they opened and our Southport base is now averaging around 1,300 visits every month.

Within our operational plan we have renewed our commitment to strengthening the Life Rooms model within both a primary and secondary care context so we can provide support to people outside the traditional models of service delivery and enable people to take more control over their health and recovery. 

In partnership with Liverpool and Sefton Provider Alliances, the Life Rooms will form part of a single ‘social prescribing’ pathway for Liverpool and Sefton which makes the most of the community and voluntary sector non medical support and services within neighbourhoods.

To this end we will be working hard in the coming 12 months to make the Life Rooms offer more available across our footprint and ever more closely aligned to the needs of physical health as well as mental health.

One of the major initiatives that Life Rooms has begun is their Wellbeing Wednesday monthly drop in session offering free advice and support and all different sorts of health issues, practical demonstrations and workshops and information about courses.

Since starting last October around 400 people have accessed the support, advice and courses available and we are starting to grow the number of referrals from partners such as GPs. These sessions are monthly and the next one is 5 June so please look out on social media and the Life Rooms website for more information and support in any way you can – including telling any patients, service users or carers that you think may benefit.

Whalley Celebrations

This week also marked the centenary celebrations for learning disability nursing and there was a special event in the Ribble Valley that brought together 150 nurses and students. Executive Director of Nursing Trish Bennett hosted the event, which included guest speakers and respected academic Professor Duncan Mitchell, who qualified as an LD nurse in the mid 1980s. A video of the event can be seen below:

Trish said she was humbled to “listen to stories of how the profession has developed and hear about great practice. Learning disability nursing is one of the four parts of the nursing family and represents the single biggest workforce group in LD services.” 

Another major event in the nursing calendar also took place yesterday with the International Day of Nursing and Mersey Care is hosting an event at the Park Hotel in Netherton today to show how much we value all of our colleagues on the front line.

I often say when I go to events and conferences that I’ve never met anyone who works for the NHS who goes into work to do a bad job. Every single person I meet wants to help and that certainly applies to those who enter the nursing profession.

Joe Rafferty

Chief Executive