People who are close to someone, who has taken their own life, can be 3 times more at risk of attempting suicide. Recognising this, our government puts access to support for those bereaved by suicide as a core component of their suicide prevention strategy.

Concerns raised by people bereaved by suicide and organisations that support them, however, suggest that access to support is not always easy. The S.A.F.E.R. Campaign organised by the Mental Health Rights Campaign offers simple solutions to address these concerns – for further information read The SAFER Campaign Report

Since the launch of S.A.F.E.R in September 2016 the campaign group has sought to build alliances for the changes it is calling for.  So, in recent months group members held a series of workshops with potential allies including the a clergy leaders group organised by Bill Shaw at the 174 Trust, PIPS Family Group , Gerry O’Reilly new Director of PIPS, the SAFE Project (a group of family members bereaved by suicide supported by Extern) , Dr John Kyle, staff at CONTACT (who runs the Lifeline Service) amongst others.

The workshops included a short film featuring campaign group member Bobby Duffin talking about his experience of the loss of his daughter and what S.A.F.E.R is calling for https://youtu.be/saKmi8kKyhU. It was great to have ‘journeyfor’ creative agency make this film for us to help the campaign – allies can spring from many unexpected places – this one came about from a chance chat in a coffee shop! They have also agreed to do a short film on another key element of the campaign which is about explaining why the present system of PSNI officers asking bereaved family members ‘do they want referred to support’ in the hours following the loss of their loved ones is not the most appropriate time. Family members have told us ‘we did not know what we wanted or needed at that time’.  Some family members also suggested that police officers sometimes do not know the type of support on offer for family members. This can lead families to inadvertently and wrongly assume that, the support on offer is immediate counselling, social work involvement or support from the police, which can be factors in a decision to refuse  an offer of support. These are some key reasons why the campaign is calling for an ‘automatic referral’ system, in a similar way that victims of crime are now automatically referred to support.

Given the precedent of the automatic system for victims of crime - the campaign group decided to organise a meeting with Victim Support to find out the benefits of an automatic referral system which, proved very valuable. Two members of the campaign group, Kathryn Gilliland and Claire Curran met with Geri Hanna CEO of Victim Support who gave us promising information about the automatic referral system for victims of crime but also flagged up that the automatic system may be rolled back. This is causing concern as the rate of take up of support had increased with the automatic system. Given the common concerns over the issue of referral systems for people, who maybe in vulnerable situations, the Mental Health Rights Campaign and Victim Support have agreed to work together on this important issue. To this end, and with the kind assistance of Prof Brice Dickson who is an independent member of the NI Policing Board we have been able to secure a meeting with some members of the Policing Board over the summer.

Looking forward to August we are meeting with the Suicide Awareness Group in West Belfast, doing a presentation at East Belfast Police and Community Safety Partnership and hope to meet with the renowned Hillsborough Campaigner Prof Phil Scraton. We will also seek direct engagement with the PSNI and Coroner’s Office on the campaign calls.

Our thanks to SAFER Campaign supporters old and new.

For further information contact Stephanie Green at stephanie@pprproject.org