The World Federation for Mental Health has declared ‘suicide prevention’ as this year’s theme for World Mental Health Day (10 October) and with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) recording 6,507* suicides in the UK last year – or more than 17 per day – the need for more action is clear.
However, overlooked in these figures is the number of suicide attempts and it is here that RedArc believes insurers and employers may be compelled to take more action. Whilst it is difficult to accurately collate figures, The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that for every suicide, there are more than twenty** suicide attempts, which means there could have been as many as 130,000 attempted suicides in the UK during the first half of 2019.
Alison Simmons, senior mental health nurse adviser at RedArc Nurses says: “The phrase ‘every death by suicide is a death too many’ is frequently quoted but the attempted suicide figures show that this is a problem on a scale far greater than the headline fatality statistics convey. Every attempted suicide is a tragedy in itself.”
Those that have attempted suicide can be at higher risk of re-attempting, however, evidence*** shows that providing support by way of intervention and contact significantly reduces the likelihood of death by suicide, so providing professional support to those at risk of suicide cannot be underestimated.
Both insurers and employers have the ability to make an incredible and tangible difference to those individuals who battle with serious mental health issues:
- More insurers could include added-value services within their policies, such as access to specialist help to ensure that their customers can get early intervention support when it is needed.
- Employers can do more to help too, either by ensuring the group insurance provider they select makes access available to mental health support before or without the need for a financial claim; or by offering direct access to help.
Alison Simmons continued: “Some insurers and employers already have the capacity and tools to support customers and staff who have serious mental health issues, but they don’t always make it clear about how to get that help and what specifically is included. Regular communication is required to reiterate information to ensure the message reaches those who most need it.
“Added value is the term widely used for this type of service but what we’re actually talking about is life-saving early intervention if we can catch someone before they reach crisis point.
“Suicide is one of the last taboos in discussing mental health, and it would be a meaningful step if even more insurers included good quality support for mental health in their policies as standard. This mustn’t be a tick-box exercise, support needs to incorporate access to specialist mental health advisers. Likewise, it’s important that employers really understand what support they have available and to offer it to employees.
“We believe access to specialist help and better communication will lead to a greater take up, and our industry would play a significant role in reducing the number of individuals who feel they have no choice other than to take their own life.”
FINDINGS: Significantly fewer deaths from suicide occurred in the Brief Intervention and Contact (BIC) than in the treatment-as-usual group (0.2% versus 2.2%, respectively; chi2 = 13.83, P < 0.001).