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‘Factors that protect against suicide less well understood than risk’

Research is needed into the relationships that protect people against suicide risk, says mental health expert
men playing football

Behaviours or relationships that protect against suicide are much less well understood than risk factors, says an adviser to Public Health England.

Mental Health Foundation (MHF) head of empowerment and social inclusion David Crepaz-Keay told a conference on suicide there is potential for good work on understanding factors that protect people against risk of suicide.

Dr Crepaz-Keay, who is working with NHS England and NHS Improvement on linking mental health payment systems to outcomes, said two protective factors are religious observance and engagement in community sport.

More research needed

But he told the conference in Salford on 17 January: We dont know whether it is the same mechanism with both that protects against suicide. There is a real imbalance in understanding of risk and protective factors and we want to focus significant research

Behaviours or relationships that protect against suicide are much less well understood than risk factors, says an adviser to Public Health England. 


Involvement in sport reduces risk of suicide Photo: iStock

Mental Health Foundation (MHF) head of empowerment and social inclusion David Crepaz-Keay told a conference on suicide there is potential for good work on understanding factors that protect people against risk of suicide. 

Dr Crepaz-Keay, who is working with NHS England and NHS Improvement on linking mental health payment systems to outcomes, said two protective factors are religious observance and engagement in community sport.

More research needed

But he told the conference in Salford on 17 January: ‘We don’t know whether it is the same mechanism with both that protects against suicide. There is a real imbalance in understanding of risk and protective factors and we want to focus significant research time on protective factors.’

Dr Crepaz-Keay said a 2011 study by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center in the United States identified connections to community or social institutions, and problem-solving skills as protective factors. It recommended identifying specific protective factors in suicide prevention efforts. 

Another important area of focus should be the number of days people spend living in misery, Dr Crepaz-Keay said. ‘If we did something that reduced the days living in misery but did not reduce the number of suicides, we would still have done an incredibly worthwhile thing,’ he said.

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