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Release the Pressure suicide prevention conference at The Great Danes Hotel in Maidstone

By Luke May

Plans to improve support and provisions for people attempting suicide have been discussed at a conference.

The Great Danes Hotel in Maidstone hosted experts from the county's NHS trusts and councils to discuss the ongoing work to prevent and understand figures surrounding suicide.

Visitors heard words from men who had survived suicide, as a study revealed three quarters of people who take their own lives in Kent are men.

One commented: "There's definitely this thing about men not wanting to open up. But if you don't open up, the outcome can be fatal."

County councillor Diane Marsh spoke of her family’s struggles with mental illness, including her father taking his life when she was 19.

The deputy cabinet member for adult social care said: “My father never had any support and wouldn’t have dreamt of going to the GP for help, little has changed since then as many men still don’t enter the GP’s practice to say they are feeling suicidal for fear of being stigmatised.”

Lauretta Kavanagh is mental health programme director for Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, which organised the event and is behind initiatives such as Release the Pressure, a campaign aimed at getting the public, men in particular, talking about mental illness.

A conference for suicide survivors in Maidstone (10339303)
A conference for suicide survivors in Maidstone (10339303)

The partnership is made up of Kent councils, hospital trusts and the mental health trusts.

Mrs Kavanagh said: "They've chosen to work together to improve physical and mental health of Kent's population of 1.8million people.

"They know they're better together, that we need to do different things and do what we have been doing differently."

Speakers from the conference included Karen Cole a liaison practitioner at Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust, which looks after the county's mental health provisions, such as the Brenchley Unit in Maidstone.

Councillor Diane Marsh Kent County Council mental health champion represents Gravesend
Councillor Diane Marsh Kent County Council mental health champion represents Gravesend

Mrs Cole told the conference the trust was working towards having a separate space for people who have attempted suicide when they visit A&E departments.

Last year the Kent Messenger exclusively revealed 50% of all self-harm admissions to A&E were young people aged between 13 and 30, most of whom were women.

Mrs Cole said: "It's far more hard to protect the people who are suffering in silence.

"If you had an alternative to A&E that was much more therapeutic, I think we'd have much more success in support people."

Mrs Kavanagh added: "We've designed into the mental health programme ways of learning what we don't know.

"If we don't have our feet on the ground about what people's real experience is when they seek advice then we won't know what improvements we might make.

"Given the majority of people who die by suicide aren't known to services, often we don't know about so much about them and what's happening for them.

"Sometimes it's uncomfortable to hear things are not working like we want them to however we agree it's necessary in order to improve."

To find out more about the services are available visit the Release the Pressure website, Kent Messenger also attended a mental health first aid course, which covered advice for supporting people who are suicidal, which you can read about here.

If you're struggling, call Samaritans on 116 123.

To keep up-to-date with all the latest developments with your local hospitals and other health stories, click here.

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