‘Consultation is not co-production’ in the development of a suicide prevention strategy

Emma Goodlad, Grants and Impact Officer at the Health and Social Care Allliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) blogs for the Academy this week. Emma powerfully makes the case for meaningful public involvement and co-production in the development of a suicide prevention strategy. 

New statistics published earlier this month reflecting the impact of suicide on people in Scotland were somewhat worrying, with a sharp increase in deaths by suicide in 2016. With suicide being the leading cause of death for young people in Scotland and the biggest killer of men aged 20-49 in the UK, the new suicide prevention strategy being developed by the Scottish Government needs to be forward thinking and brave in its aims and ambitions.

To develop a truly effective and useful suicide prevention strategy, one which guides people and professionals across Scotland on how to support people who are experiencing crisis because of intrusive suicidal thoughts and ideations, the Scottish Government needs to be led by people with real lived experience of suicidal thoughts, attempts and those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

This cannot simply be a consultation. When asked to be consulted on the recently published Mental Health Strategy, some third sector organisations expressed that they felt that the Scottish Government has a culture of over consulting, but under delivering on the feedback. People feel that they have opened up and told very personal, and often quite painful, stories of their own lived experience to try and guide and influence policy and strategy but are not seeing their experiences reflected in the final outputs.

To make sure that they are doing the right thing by people they need to put lived experience at the heart of the process from the very beginning to ensure that consultation is undertaken in an appropriate, sensitive and realistic way where people feel like their voices are truly heard and being used to improve the lives of others in the future.

As someone with both lived experience of attempting to take my own life, and working at an organisation who works in partnership with our members to influence and develop Scottish Government policy and strategy, I can see both sides of the coin. I understand that the state cannot realistically meet every demand or provide the necessary changes to services and support overnight, however when I most needed support I was let down by the very system we are told to tap into and ask for help from. If there was a clear suicide prevention strategy with realistic outputs and therefore outcomes, I may have never reached the point where I felt I could no longer cope and tried to take my own life. On the other hand I may still have reached that point and if I had, again, a clear and realistic strategy could have ensured that there was a clear pathway of support on hospital discharge to support me in the time between discharge and CMHT appointment.

Instead I was discharged, still in a state of disconnectedness from the world, with no involvement of my family in the lead up to my discharge from a High Dependency Unit and no coping plan put in place to keep me going until my appointment 8 days later with a Community Psychiatric Nurse. My family, friends and I were left to muddle through that week and deal with my ongoing depression and suicidal thoughts with no professional support purely because I had seen liaison psychiatry while still in a blur, recovering from the after effects and trauma of an overdose and had lied, like so many others, about still feeling suicidal because I was terrified that I would be sectioned under the mental health act.

I was lucky to have an incredible support network who got me through that incredibly difficult period and who now actively support me to look after my mental health and identify any issues.  But what if that happens again? Would anything be different? Yes, it would be, but not necessarily because the support services are any different, but because my family and I know what needs to be different and would fight for different support.

Consultation is not co-production. I want my voice to be heard by policy makers, I want my experience of the darkest period in my life to be used for good.  But I don’t want to be involved in a tokenistic consultation where nothing really changes, because the Government are afraid of raising expectations and letting people down if they cannot meet them.

I want to be part of a strategy which is brave, forward thinking and truly strives to make a difference in people’s lives and isn’t another strategy which goes into desk drawers across Scotland. I want to be involved in the development of a strategy where the consultation is a two-way discussion which is open and honest about what is realistic, what the challenges will be and work together to find realistic solutions to overcome these.

Let’s not forget that they have done this before. In 2008 members of the ALLIANCE worked with the Scottish Government to develop and produce Gaun Yersel’ The Self Management Strategy for Scotland. Gaun Yersel’ 9 years on is still held up as an excellent example of effective co-production to produce a realistic strategy document.

I call on the Scottish Government to be brave, put aside the fear of raising expectations and let’s work together for a Scotland where death by suicide rates are reducing, not increasing and strive for a support system to be held up as an example across the globe.

The Power of Prevention: “It’s time to stop being polite, and get angry”

David’s story, presented at the Academy’s event on the benefits of prevention in health and social care, inevitably invokes equal measures of sympathy, frustration and dismay. It is a story in which many professionals were ‘only doing their job’, or perhaps, no more than their job requires. Missed signs, missed connections and missed opportunities all conspired towards a man who was gravely mentally ill spending weeks in a prison cell because, during his crisis, his home had been condemned and social work, primary care and mental health services failed to respond effectively.

Read More “The Power of Prevention: “It’s time to stop being polite, and get angry””

The Power of Prevention: Money doesn’t grow on trees…

The latest event in the Academy’s Integration Series, The Power of Prevention, took place on Monday 25th January. A diverse range of delegates from across sectors came together at the Serenity Cafe in Edinburgh and fuelled by some delicious haggis, neeps and tatties (it was Burns’ Night after all) we set about exploring the cost effectiveness of preventative approaches to health and wellbeing.

Read More “The Power of Prevention: Money doesn’t grow on trees…”

The Power of Prevention

Time and again, we hear that preventative projects work and yet nothing changes and resources continue to be targeted at acute care.The integration of health and social care services provides us with a unique opportunity to rethink how best to meet the needs of communities across Scotland, and importantly to embed the values of prevention and anticipation into the commissioning of support and services.

This event, held in partnership with the Serenity Café, will:

– Show how cost-effective preventative approaches are in comparison to crisis response

– Challenge attendees to put their money where their mouth is and decide which services to invest in given a pot of money

– Highlight one innovative example of funding outcome-focused preventative work: Perth and District YMCA’s social impact bond

Please email event@alliance-scotland.org.uk to register your space.