A University of Cumbria nursing student has successfully mounted a campaign to convince the university to introduce suicide prevention training for all under-graduation nursing courses.
Laura Collins, (40), is a third year Mental Health Nursing student. During the course of her training she experienced the devastation of losing a patient to suicide. It was this experience that spurred her on to present a proposal to the university for all nursing students to receive suicide prevention training so they develop the skills and knowledge required to care for individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts and prevent future tragedies.
She said, “The devastation of losing a patient to suicide had a profound effect on me. It was the catalyst for my development in my final year of training as I strove to learn everything I could and gain as much experience as possible in suicide prevention.”
“I hope that this training will help student nurses develop awareness of the issues around suicidality and the confidence to ask the difficult questions if they suspect someone is feeling depressed, self-harming or suicidal and get the appropriate support”.
To coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day, today, Thursday 10 September, Laura arranged a joint conference with Cumbria County Council, Carlisle and Eden Mind, for her fellow nursing cohort and other students and stakeholders at the university’s Fusehill campus, Carlisle. The speakers at the conference include the county’s suicide prevention lead, Dr. Jane Mathieson and experts from the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust who are talking about the work they are doing to reduce suicide in the county and improve patient care. Preventing avoidable death is part of their five-year quality strategy and acknowledges that reducing suicide is everyone's business.
There are also workshops discussing different aspects of suicide prevention as well as exhibition stands from a number of mental health charities.
Dr Jane Mathieson, public health consultant from Cumbria County Council, said ‘In recent years, we have funded Carlisle Eden Mind to train about 2,000 people in how they can help prevent suicide. By raising awareness and building skills and confidence to talk about suicide, we are breaking the taboos that make it difficult for people to reach out and get help when they are distressed. Less than a third of people who die through suicide are in contact with specialist mental health services, so it’s important that family, friends, neighbours and colleagues feel able to offer support, as well as health and care professionals.”
Parts of Cumbria have some of some of the highest suicide rates in the country. From 2010-12, Copeland had the second highest suicide rate per 100,000 people in England with 15.5 while the average in England was eight per 100,000.
Suicide prevention training is not a requirement of the Nursing and Midwifery Council for the pre-registration nursing curriculum, however, the Royal College of Nursing encourages universities to offer such training to their students. Often, nursing students report anecdotally of lacking the skills and confidence to speak openly about suicide and self-harm with their patients for fear of putting ideas in a patient’s head or saying the wrong thing.
Dr Louise Nelson, Head of Nursing, Health and Professional Practice was impressed with Laura’s proposal and immediately saw the practical benefits the training would provide for trainee students: “We want to ensure that our students get the training they need to perform effectively on the job. If that means going above and beyond the requirements of curriculum then we are happy to support so that we better prepare the future workforce, and educational standards are raised.”
Over the summer, Laura worked with Juliet Gray, training officer with Carlisle and Eden Mind, to deliver four half-day suicide prevention-awareness sessions to second-year student nurses. These pilot sessions challenged some of the myths around suicidality and helped students to gain an understanding of the health and social issues around suicidal behaviour. The aim of these sessions was to better prepare them as future nurses to deliver compassionate care to those experiencing such difficulties, wherever they may encounter them.