We must not hide suicide from children, says kids charity worker ahead of Manchester conference
25 Aug 2014
By Nsofwa Kangwa
Suicide should not be hidden away but instead discussed with children to aid their understanding, claims a kids charity worker.
The annual event, which will be held at the Manchester Conference centre on September 23, is a collaboration with the Centre for Mental Health, Risk at the University of Manchester and Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust.
According to figures released in February by the Office of National Statistics, the North West had the highest rate of suicide in the country in 2012.
“In the UK, on average, someone takes their own life every 80 minutes,” said senior practitioner Tina Woods of Winston’s Wish, a children’s charity who recently expanded its service from Gloucestershire to the North West
For Tina, the figures cemented the charity’s need to help the needs of bereaved children and their families.
“Many of these will be parents or siblings of children who are left overwhelmed and bewildered by what has happened,” she said.
“Although our natural instinct might be to protect children from death, particularly from a death through suicide, which is one of the most painful and complicated forms of bereavement.
“Our experience at Winston’s Wish shows that children need open, honest and consistent explanations, appropriate to their age and developmental understanding.”
In January, the government issued the first annual report a year after it promised to commit to suicide prevention in a cross government strategy for England, a policy aimed at social workers, health professionals, the police and mental health workers.
Dr. Sharon McDonnell, conference organiser and suicide bereavement researcher, told MM that suicide bereavement research is advancing within the North West.
“I am very optimistic that things are starting to change and get better,” she said.
The delegates who attend the conference are diverse and receptive to improving the care those bereaved by suicide receive. Education is key.
“Our department is currently developing training to guide health professionals how to respond to parents bereaved by suicide,” she told MM.
“This is the first of its kind in the UK.”
Specialist speakers including internationally recognised Australian suicide bereavement expert, Dr. Myfanwy Maple, as well as Co-Chair of the International Association for Suicide prevention Sean McCarthy.
Malcolm Rae, co-founder of Rugby League and mental health initiative State of Mind will also be speaking at the event that’s in its third year of running.
He will be joined by former Super League rugby player Danny Sculthorpe and ex Rugby League player Jimmy Gittins, who will be leading workshops throughout the event.
Rebekah Lawson will be in attendance representing Winston’s Wish.
Tina Woods added: “Winston’s Wish are very pleased to have the opportunity to take part in this important Conference to raise awareness of the work that we do to support children bereaved through suicide and to highlight the importance of providing children and families with the right support at the right time.
For more information regarding the Suicide Bereavement Conferenceclick here.
Image courtesy of Ashley Rose, with thanks.