What if we could stop people dying by suicide? Better yet, how about getting world leaders to actually try?
The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Nick Clegg, has pledged to eliminate suicide. Not reduce it, not minimise those at risk, but actually stop suicide. Entirely.
Zero suicides? As in, no further suicides in the British patient population? It’s ambitious. Ooph, yeah, it’s ambitious.
But it’s also possible.
In fact, it’s been done before. The people of Detroit, USA, achieved exactly this 6 years ago.
In 2001, the Henry Ford Health System developed what was called the Perfect Depression Plan. The plan was a total overhaul of the mental health system to ensure that patients did not fall through the cracks. It was a comprehensive restructure designed to protect people at risk, give them access to the beds, the care and the professionals they needed.
By 2008, they had succeeded. They got to zero. For the duration of that year, there were no patient suicides in a city of 700,000 people. To put that in context, depending on what figures you use the usual rate of patient suicide in the United States is around 34 per 100,000 – so that’s 248 people who might otherwise have taken their own lives. Impressive.
Nick Clegg wants to replicate this success in England.
He’s one of the only politicians who in the world treating suicide as the international emergency it is. Wherever the hell on the political spectrum he sits, Clegg has got this much right: “Suicide is, and always has been, a massive taboo in our society. People are genuinely scared to talk about it, never mind intervene when they believe a loved one is at risk”.
“That’s why I’m issuing a call to every part of the National Health Scheme to commit to a new ambition for zero suicides,” he says.
In the UK, Clegg and his Government are looking at a death toll of 4,700 people a year by suicide. And its on the rise.
Here in Australia, that figure is more like 2,003 people per year (which is alarming, when you consider the vast population difference between Australia and the United Kingdom).
In 2012 in Australia, 6 people took their own lives on average, each day. So many of those deaths were preventable – in theory, all of them were. Vulnerable people die when there aren’t enough beds, or enough doctors, or enough money to keep the suicidal safe from themselves. These are problems that are not impossible or way out or dream-like – they are infinitely solvable.