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Identifying and responding to suicide clusters and contagion / Keith Hawton, Karen Lascelles, Anne Stewart, Ann John, Jane Mathieson, Camilla Haw, Kate Saunders
Swansea University Author: Ann John
This document is for people with responsibility for suicide prevention in local authorities and their partner agencies.Suicide clusters understandably cause great concern and may lead to hasty responses. It is important that plans for such occurrences are prepared in advance, to ensure a measured an...
Public Health England
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This document is for people with responsibility for suicide prevention in local authorities and their partner agencies.Suicide clusters understandably cause great concern and may lead to hasty responses. It is important that plans for such occurrences are prepared in advance, to ensure a measured and effective response. Authorities need to remain vigilant for the sorts of suicidal behaviour that might lead to contagion, and put strategies in place to forestall this.This has been developed as a contribution to the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England. It should be read alongside the guidance on developing local suicide action plans. (www.gov.uk/government/publications/suicide-prevention-developing-a-local- action-plan)The document includes: the meaning of the term ‘suicide clusters’, their identification, suggestions for who may be at risk of suicidal acts due to the influence of other people’s suicidal behaviour, the mechanisms involved, and the effects of suicide (including suicide clusters) on other individuals.The steps that need to be taken at local level to prepare for a suicide cluster are described. This necessitates the development of a community action plan (CAP), including suicide surveillance group (SSG) to review local occurrence of suicides and self-harm, together with a suicide response team (SRT) to deliver the plan. If all this is already in place, you may wish to move on to page 22, ‘Identification of a possible suicide cluster.’It is important to balance rapidity of response with careful thinking, which is why a series of checklists are included at the back of this report, to aid analysis. The need for close collaboration between children’s safeguarding agencies and the SRT is highlighted.Identifying possible suicide clusters can be difficult. Early indicators are described, together with the need to carefully establish the facts and avoid premature and possibly unhelpful responses.This document suggests responses to possible suicide clusters, especially preventing unhelpful media reporting, identification of individuals and groups who may be particularly vulnerable and practical interventions to reduce the risk of a spread of suicidal behaviour. It also covers help for those directly affected by suicidIn a group vulnerable to imitation it is crucial to take prevention measures after an initial suicide. Particular attention is paid to addressing suicides and their potential spread in mental health services and schools.In this age of instant information sharing it is possible for a cluster to be geographically dispersed. Local groups will need to alert other local authorities if this looks possible. The issue of when and how to wind down a response to a suicide cluster is also outlined, with emphasis on the fact that localities which have had clusters may be at heightened risk of further clusters.Finally, best practice is provided on evaluation of responses to a cluster and using the experience to improve further suicide prevention measures.
Swansea University Medical School