Dramatic increase in suicides shows the urgent need to improve mental health crisis care


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Posted on 04/07/2013

Mind comments on the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness released today by The University of Manchester.

The number of suicides by patients with mental health problems who are receiving home treatment has increased significantly according to findings reported today in the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (NCI) produced by The University of Manchester.

The new report finds there were 1,333 suicides in mental health patients in England in 2011 – up from 1175 in 2010. It also reveals a decline in the number of homicides committed by mental health patients.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, said:

"Every life lost is a tragedy that affects families, friends and whole communities. These figures show clearly that, when in crisis, people with mental health problems are far more likely to harm themselves than they are to harm someone else and, while it is good news that homicides have dropped so dramatically, the increase in suicides is deeply concerning. 

The current economic climate, unemployment and benefits cuts are likely to be having an impact but we know too that people in a mental health crisis aren’t always getting the help and support they need from the services there to support them. Mind’s own research has shown that, in many parts of the country, crisis care teams are under-resourced, understaffed and overstretched.

Good services can make a huge difference to whether someone recovers from a mental health crisis, yet we often hear from people who have been turned away because they ‘aren’t suicidal enough’ or who have been made to wait for hours to be assessed and offered help. When people in crisis don’t get the help they need, the consequences can be catastrophic.

This is important research shining a light on the number of vulnerable people that are taking their own life but further assessment of the data is needed so that we can see if this is an early warning sign of a long term trend.  Budgets for mental health services have been cut for the second year running and this could be a worrying indication that cuts are now having a serious impact. 

The government needs to be investing in mental health now more than ever, particularly if they are to achieve true parity of esteem between physical and mental health."

In 2012, Mind conducted research into NHS crisis care services for mental health problems. Information obtained through Freedom of Information requests to mental health trusts, a service user survey of almost 1,000 people and preliminary data from a research project at University College London (funded by the National Institute for Health Research) revealed that:

  • Services are understaffed: Four in ten mental health trusts (41 per cent) have staffing levels well below established benchmarks.
  • People are not getting the help they need: There is huge variation in the numbers of people accessing crisis care services and one in five people (18 per cent) who came into contact with NHS services in crisis was not assessed at all. Only 14 per cent of people said that, overall, they felt they had all the support they needed when in crisis.
  • People aren’t assessed quickly enough: Only a third (33 per cent) of respondents who came into contact with NHS services when in crisis were assessed within four hours, as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
  • Services are not available all the time: One in ten (10 per cent) crisis teams still fails to operate 24-hour, seven-day-a-week services, despite recommendations by NICE.
  • People cannot contact crisis teams directly: Only half (56 per cent) of crisis teams accept self-referrals from known services users and just one in five (21 per cent) from service users that aren’t already known to them. This is despite NICE guidance that crisis teams should offer self-referral as an alternative to emergency services.
  • There is a lack of respect and dignity: Less than a third (29 per cent) said they felt all staff treated them with respect and dignity.

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