News: Suicide bereavement insights to be presented by Churchill Fellows

Published: 13 Nov 2020

News: Suicide bereavement insights to be presented by Churchill Fellows

Global insights on the neglected issue of suicide bereavement will be presented by Churchill Fellows at the Suicide Bereavement UK International Conference in November.

Over 6,000 people die by suicide annually in the UK. Evidence suggests that each death affects an additional 135 people - and significantly increases the risk of suicide among those who have lost someone in this way.

The Suicide Bereavement UK International Conference has been organised by Churchill Fellows and will share best practice and lived experience from around the world, relating to this often overlooked issue. It will take place online on 18 November 2020.

The conference has been organised by Dr Sharon McDonnell (CF 2013), founder of Suicide Bereavement UK (SBUK), in collaboration with Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust. Sharon was inspired to set up SBUK following her Churchill Fellowship, which explored best practice in the care of those bereaved by suicide in Australia and New Zealand.

Sharon says, “My Churchill Fellowship gave me the confidence to set up SBUK and specialise in suicide bereavement. As a result, I have been able to make international contacts in this field and start the conversation about this under-researched issue, and advance knowledge and understanding across the world.”

The event is in its ninth year and will be held online for the first time due to the current pandemic. Eighteen speakers, five of whom are Churchill Fellows, are due to deliver workshops at the event. It will bring together people bereaved or affected by suicide, professionals, agencies and academics that deal with suicide bereavement, and policy makers who are instrumental in helping to develop postvention services across the UK.

Sharon presenting at Suicide Bereavement UK’s international conference in 2018

The event will also present findings from the National Suicide Bereavement Survey, the largest suicide bereavement survey internationally. The survey was carried out as part of a collaboration between the University of Manchester and Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP), gathering the experiences and needs of over 7,000 people bereaved or affected by suicide. Sharon led the study as an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester with support from Shirley Smith (CF 2016). Shirley is the founder of If U Care Share Foundation, who will also be speaking at the event.

Findings from this survey will inform one of the key objectives in NHS England’s Suicide Prevention Strategy: ‘To provide better information and support to those bereaved or affected by suicide.’ The aim of this strategy is to provide specialist crisis support for those bereaved or affected by suicide across England by 2024.

Sharon says: “Currently, our understanding of how to care for this vulnerable high-risk group is limited. Caring for those bereaved by suicide is a key aspect of suicide prevention and a government priority.”

The conference will be chaired by Angela Samata (CF 2017) who is a Lived Experience Advisor, Trainer and Creative Consultant at SBUK. Angela’s Fellowship explored attitudes to artists with diagnosed mental health conditions in Japan and the USA. Angela has worked in suicide prevention and the arts for almost two decades, speaking internationally on both subjects.

Dr Ananta Dave (CF 2019) will be presenting a workshop on her Fellowship findings at the event. Ananta travelled to the USA to research strategies for preventing doctors from taking their own lives, and visited a range of services that treat healthcare professionals with mental illness. Ananta is a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and Medical Director for Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Her aim is to set up similar services to those she visited for her Fellowship, within the NHS.

Dr Hayley Gorton (CF 2018) will also be sharing learnings from her Fellowship, in a workshop at the event. Hayley travelled to Canada and the USA to investigate the role of community pharmacies in suicide prevention. Hayley is a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at the University of Huddersfield and is working to enhance the role of community pharmacy teams in suicide and self-harm awareness and prevention.

The event will take place Wednesday 18th December from 9am to 1.30pm. For more details, visit the SBUK website.

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