Bigger picture: training can help us to reduce deaths by suicide

Nurses in emergency care must be prepared to assess and support those who may be in need 

Nurses in emergency care must be prepared to assess and support those who may be in need 

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A debate held at last month's RCN congress in Belfast, presented by the mental health forum, discussed the lack of training and awareness around assessment of suicide risk and the services available to support individuals in need. 

Across the four UK countries, governments and organisations have produced collaborative strategies to raise awareness of suicide and counter the risk of it happening, resulting in a 3.6% drop in the number of suicides from 2015 to 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Mental health

However, there are still almost 6,000 deaths by suicide each year, with 75% of those dying being male.  

Nurses in emergency care meet people who are having a mental health crisis on a regular, if not daily, basis. 

It is essential that all nurses know what to do, how to share information and when to intervene in these situations.

The right skills

Access to services varies by emergency department, from off-site mental health liaison teams to mental health nurses based in the department. 

It is important that all emergency nurses and healthcare assistants take time to speak with their NHS trust’s vulnerable adult and safeguarding child leads, as well as local mental health services, to ensure they know how to assess suicide risk, provide appropriate support and refer to statutory and voluntary services.  

We must also enable students to undertake emergency care placements so that they can develop the same skills and knowledge. 

Front line

While it is difficult in such a hectic front-line environment to focus on prevention, in addition to treating and managing the patients, we must all make the effort to do just that. 

By raising awareness and employing preventative measures we can continue to drive down the number of deaths by suicide. 

About the author

Owen Hammett is a critical care technologist at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and a member of the RCN Emergency Care Association

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