Founder and CEO of Suicide Crisis, a charity which runs a Suicide Crisis Centre
Joy is the Founder and CEO of Suicide Crisis, a registered charity which runs a Suicide Crisis Centre.
Her life was changed by a traumatic experience in 2012. She developed symptoms of PTSD, and within days was at the point of suicide. She was referred to the NHS crisis team and was eventually admitted to psychiatric hospital. Her experience of mental health services showed her that there was a need for an alternative type of care for people in crisis.
The Suicide Crisis Centre opened in 2013, providing face to face support to people in Gloucestershire who are at risk of suicide. The charity also runs a Trauma Centre, which focuses on early intervention.
In the past year, representatives from the charity have given oral evidence to the Health Select Committee about the Suicide Crisis Centre and how it operates. They have also given a presentation about their work to the national advisory group which is chaired by the Government's adviser on suicide.
Joy was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2015. One of the psychiatrists who assessed her felt that the traumatic experience in 2012 may have "uncovered" it.
Sometimes family members are afraid to ask their loved one directly if they are feeling suicidal. "I thought it best not to," one woman told me. It's so important that we do ask the question "Are you feeling suicidal?" It will not put the idea into someone's head. It will allow them the opportunity to disclose their risk.
Having been a carer, and having experienced such a deterioration of my own mental health, I can say without reservation that it was not the caring role which made me so ill. It was that I did it without support. I had no idea that continuing to care alone would have had such an effect on my health. Like the man who died, I had had no serious mental illness previously.
When I did a suicide intervention skills training course in 2013, the trainer told us that evidence showed that when a person was obviously at the point of suicide at a local "hotspot", the majority of people drove by without stopping. They may be unsure how to help, or they fear saying or doing "the wrong thing".
It would be helpful if GP surgeries could monitor the emotional and mental health of patients who disclose that they have been affected by major life events. There certainly seems to be a case for closer questioning to check how deeply affected the person is.
They called out a psychiatrist who expressed concern about the "disconnect between my thoughts and emotions". I had no idea what this meant. He explained that in his view it was dissociation. This was confirmed by other psychiatrists in the following months.
I question whether resilience is a helpful word to use. It can make those of us who experience suicidal crisis feel that it was a failing in us - that we lacked the necessary resilience to prevent it from happening.
In our county there is no specialist personality disorders service, despite NICE guidelines stating that mental health trusts should develop such services. Plans for a specialist PD service were disbanded last year after a decision was made to divert the money to a different department instead. Our clients were devastated at this news and felt it reflected a lack of prioritisation of their needs.
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Although Christmas is predominantly a time of sadness for me, because it is for so many of our clients, it is still a time of hope. I believe that all our clients can survive, and indeed they all have so far. At our Suicide Crisis Centre, we care for them and do all we can to support them through this particularly dark time. It's a privilege to be able to do so.
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In looking at the setting up of other Suicide Crisis Centres, the Select Committee may recommend that the GP becomes a central part of the care within them. I hope they think very carefully about the consequences, if they do decide to recommend this.
It was extremely upsetting to see him in court, but I also felt relief at seeing him alive. Indeed, when we first heard that he had been arrested and was in custody, both his mum and I thought "at least he is safe now".
We often feel relief when someone we care about is admitted to psychiatric hospital at a time when they are at risk of suicide. We assume that they are safe there. This is not always the case, and sometimes patients do die by suicide while they are inpatients in psychiatric units. These are catastrophic events. Such deaths devastate families and are almost always avoidable.
Consider this very different phrase: "I want to do whatever I can to help." It's a powerful phrase and for most patients it's hugely reassuring to hear. For some, it is extremely surprising - and disarming - to hear it from a doctor.
02/10/2016 21:26 BST
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