How do we go about improving mental health in the community and reducing suicide rates in the 15-29 age group?

depressed youth

(Alex Iby, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Natasha Sofia Dembrey, a final year Medical Student at the University of Nottingham in
the UK. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Globally suicide is the second most common cause of death amongst individuals between the ages of 15 and 29. (1). There were 6 507 registered suicides in the UK in 2018 and 75% of these deaths were men. (2) We are currently in a time of political and economic stability and the issue of mental health and suicide prevention isn’t getting the recognition that it deserves despite the fact that it is an important mental health issue.

A lot of very important resources for mental health and suicide prevention in the UK are provided by charity organisations such as the Samaritans. A recent study looking at the effectiveness of the Samaritans found 8.6% of people said they had called in during the process of suicide and 46.3% had reported feeling suicidal leading up to contact with the Samaritans. Immediately after the call the people who felt suicidal reported an immediate improvement in their symptoms as there was a median score of 7/10 with 1 being suicidal and 10 not suicidal. (3). This demonstrates the importance of such services and the impact that they can have on suicide prevention and we need to provide them with greater and wider recognition.

NICE guidelines say that primary care has an important role to play in helping to prevent self-harm and suicidality but I think it is important to consider that the age group most at risk (19-29) have minimal contact with primary care services. (4) The average number of GP appointments in one year for this age group is two and a half. (5) A person’s mental health can spiral out of control very rapidly and this is why more needs to be done to increase awareness and strengthen protective factors outside of the clinical setting to improve access to mental health services. As a society we need to focus on helping people to build positive support networks within schools, the workplace and small communities. The structure of our society has changed substantially over the last few decades with the introduction of social media, our increased travel and infinite career and lifestyle choices. This progress is positive on so many levels but it has also led to a reduced sense of community and solidarity. We need to make sure we are equipped to deal with these modern day challenges. Older generations may brand our generation as “snowflakes” but talking about about feelings and concerns is a vital component of building our personal skill sets to be able to cope and build resilience.

Education needs to be more focused around developing an ability to problem solve and set goals as studies have found these skills to be protective against suicidality (6) and school and universities need to improve their signposting to mental health services. It is also important to provide mental health services in a variety of formats such as one-to-one counselling, group sessions as well as online sessions. Overall we need to work towards increasing funding and signposting and reducing stigma.

Natasha Sofia Dembrey is a final year Medical Student at the University of Nottingham in
the UK and has a keen interest in Psychiatry as a career and in particular Old-Age Psychiatry.
She wants to change the current perception of Psychiatry in Medical School and amongst
Junior Doctors. She is determined to be a part of helping to change the conversation around
Mental Health.

Bibliography

  1. World Health Organisation. Suicide . 2019.
  2. B Manders, J Kaur. Suicides in the UK:2018. s.l. : Office for National Statistics, 2019.
  3. Callers’ experiences of contacting a national suicide prevention helpline: report of an online survey. Coveney CM, Pollock K, Armstrong S, & Moore J,. 6, 2012, Crisis, Vol. 33, pp. 313-324.
  4. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Self-harm in over 8s: short-term management and prevention of recurrence . s.l. : NICE UK, 2004.
  5. NHS Digital. Trends in consultation rates in General Practise 1995 to 2008: Analysis of the QResearch database. s.l. : The information centre for health and social care, 2009.
  6. NHS Bassetlaw. A strategy for the reduction and prevention of suicide in Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City 2009-2012. s.l. : Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County, 2009.

About the Author

Natasha Sofia Dembrey is a final year Medical Student at the University of Nottingham in
the UK and has a keen interest in Psychiatry as a career and in particular Old-Age Psychiatry. She wants to change the current perception of Psychiatry in Medical School and amongst Junior Doctors. She is determined to be a part of helping to change the conversation around Mental Health.

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