Home Mental Health & Well-Being Essex County Council Takes Action on Elevated Suicide Rates with New Mental Health Officer Position

Essex County Council Takes Action on Elevated Suicide Rates with New Mental Health Officer Position

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In a move to combat rising suicide rates in parts of Essex, the Essex County Council has advertised a £37,500-a-year role for a public mental health and suicide prevention officer. The role is particularly targeted at the north east of the county, notably in the areas of Tendring and Colchester, where suicide rates are alarmingly higher than the England average.

The move comes after recurring criticism of mental health services in the county. Coroner reports have underscored failures in mental healthcare, urging the council to take immediate action. The job posting describes the role as an “exciting new opportunity” for a candidate with a deep-rooted passion for improving lives, focusing on the necessity for collaboration between the police, hospitals, and GPs to enhance mental healthcare.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, between 2019 and 2021, Tendring reported 13.8 suicides per 100,000 people, and Colchester had 15 suicides per 100,000 people. These figures are markedly higher than the England average of 10.6 suicides per 100,000 people during the same period.

The position has been announced amid heightened scrutiny of the council’s mental health services. Earlier this year, area coroner Sonia Hayes criticised the council over its failures surrounding the death of Molly-Ann Sergeant in 2020. According to Hayes, the council did not follow NHS referrals properly, neglected required assessments while Sergeant was a mental health inpatient, and did not appoint a social worker until she was discharged. In response, the council claimed to have revised its assessment policies and implemented additional training.

Similarly, another Essex coroner, Sean Horstead, last year criticised the NHS mental health staff for their substandard care of a 66-year-old man from Walton-on-the-Naze. This ongoing critique has culminated in an inquiry into the deaths of up to 2,000 people in the care of Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust from 2000–2020, granted statutory powers this summer.

The council’s job advert specifies that the successful candidate would work as part of the North East Essex Suicide Prevention Programme. Responsibilities include leading on various activities and projects aimed at fostering a collaborative approach between the police, healthcare providers, and local government bodies.

This role comes at a crucial time when national attention is increasingly focused on mental health issues, propelled by the pandemic and the impact of multiple lockdowns on people’s mental well-being. Given the statistics and recent criticisms, it’s a much-needed move that brings hope for meaningful change in the way mental health services are administered in the area. The council is accepting applications until the 6th September 2023, with the role to be based in Colchester and involving regular travel to surrounding areas.

While the initial contract is for a period of 12 months, the expectations are that the appointed officer will make significant strides in improving collaboration among healthcare providers, thereby potentially reducing the high suicide rates that plague this part of Essex.

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