Star and NHS in Sheffield forge new partnership to tackle rising suicide rates in city

48 people took their own lives in Sheffield in 2018.

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 11:51 am
Updated Thursday, 10th October 2019, 12:30 pm
Stock image.

After years of falling suicide rates, numbers are again increasing and the NHS in Sheffield is keen to reduce them.

Health professionals work every day at the coal face of mental health in the city, helping people in the most desperate situations.

But journalists at the Star also have a responsibility as well.

Pictured is The Star Editor, Nancy Fielder, along with reporter Dan Hayes (right) and Dr Mike Hunter(centre) from the Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust.

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As a result, today we can announce a new partnership between the Star and the Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust to reduce suicide rates in Sheffield.

Among all the stories we cover as a newspaper, the particular challenges around reporting suicides make it unique.

For example, evidence shows that when information about methods or locations of suicides are included in reports, rates can increase.

Also, reporting which sees suicide as a ‘legitimate way out’, glamorises it or paints it as ‘revenge from beyond the grave’ can also lead to more people contemplating taking their own lives.

Thankfully, evidence shows that when stories of recovery are featured, suicide rates can decrease.

We will be working with the Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust to find and highlight some of these, but if you have stories of your own, please share them with us.

Below, Dr Mike Hunter and Nancy Fielder talk about what they hope the partnership can achieve, as well as some of the concrete steps we will be taking to work more closely together.

The NHS in Sheffield has the goal of a ‘suicide-free city’, but even if rates were reduced by 10 per cent, that would have a huge impact.

We want to work with the experts to help them do what must be an incredibly difficult job.

And, hopefully, report on suicide less often.

Dr Mike Hunter, executive medical director, Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust

We’re delighted to begin this partnership with the Sheffield Star to work together and ensure that suicide is reported on responsibly and compassionately.

The media have a huge responsibility when it comes to reporting on suicide, not only to the families who are grieving the devastating loss of a loved one, but also to other people reading who may be struggling themselves.

We know that when the specific details of a suicide are reported on, such as location or method, there is a rise in suicides of a similar nature, and that’s what we need to make sure doesn’t happen in Sheffield.

We also want to highlight that there are positive stories about people who have recovered from a mental health crisis and go on to manage their illness and have a good quality of life.

Working alongside the local media is a key action as part of the city’s Suicide Prevention Plan and we’re seeing this as the beginning of a long-term partnership which will see journalists working across the city given all the support, guidance and training they need to feel confident when reporting on suicide.

The latest national statistics on suicide released earlier this month showed that for the first time in years the number of suicides has increased, with 48 people sadly taking their own life in Sheffield during 2018.

We have an ambition to ensure that Sheffield is a place where no-one feels like they have no other option but to take their own life, and this is a big step towards helping us achieve that goal.

We’d like to thank the Sheffield Star for their commitment to work in partnership with us and hope that together we can make a real difference to the people of Sheffield.

Nancy Fielder, editor, The Star

Journalists face many challenging roles in their efforts to keep you up-to-date with everything that is going on in your city. Writing about suicides is, without doubt, one of the most difficult.

It is essential that local newspapers are free to write about matters of public interest and that we aren't bound by censorship. But that duty must also be balanced with a responsibility to do the right thing.

When it comes to writing about people who have killed themselves, the boundaries are not always clear and the discussions that take place in our office about this are the most difficult.

We know the power of the press and how devastating it can be if we get things wrong. We also understand the pain felt by those who suffer most when a loved one dies. Many of us have experienced that personally.

For every single article in The Star, we follow the guidelines set not only by the Samaritans but also the Independent Press Standards Organisation. More importantly, we work really hard to never make the family grief worse by insensitive reporting.

There are some who would rather we never wrote about suicides but I believe that ignoring inquests is not the answer. Doing it right is the only way forward.

Part of our role is to hold public bodies to account when there is even a tiny chance that deaths could have been avoided with more support, that mental health issues went unheard or that improvements are needed.

I am really proud to be working with Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust to play our part in essential work to reduce suicides, to make sure everyone in Sheffield knows there is always a place to turn, a person to listen and a different answer.