Samaritans' boss says more work needs to be done to prevent suicides

David Webb

David Webb

First published in News by

CONCERNS have been raised that not enough is being done to prevent people taking their own lives in Dorset.

Samaritans volunteers say lives could be saved with a few simple measures that would not cost much and through organisations doing more work together.

Although Samaritans offer a confidential listening service and cannot give feedback from callers, the group says it can play a useful role in prevention work by putting up posters and making calls to vulnerable people deemed to be at risk.

David Webb, who is due to stand down as director of Samaritans of Dorset after three years, is bowing out with a ‘plea for people to put their heads together’ and do more work as a team preventing suicides. He said the Weymouth-based charity used to have input into a multi-agency Dorset suicide prevention team but the team has been disbanded.

One of the issues he has been fighting for is to get Samaritans literature put on certain buildings and on land above cliffs so suicidal people know there is someone they can talk to in confidence. This has been done successfully in other parts of the country but Mr Webb is struggling to do this locally.

He said: “It’s frustrating that I haven’t been getting anywhere but there would be more progress if the suicide prevention team was putting pressure on.

“We used to meet and discuss how to reduce suicides and that doesn’t happen any more. As far as I know all areas have a suicide prevention team but not Dorset.

“There are simple things that can be done that wouldn’t need a lot of resources that could help to save lives.”

Mr Webb added: “All too often we read in the Echo about people taking their own lives. A big fuss is made about road accidents but suicide is the biggest cause of death for young people and we need to be aware of that.”

Mr Webb said there should also be closer working with mental health agencies and hospitals as the majority of night-time callers to Samaritans are people who have been in the care of health organisations.

He said: “It should be a team effort but it’s not. This isn’t going to cost much money; just a few phone calls and a few meetings could go a long way towards helping people.”

While Samaritans will never tell people what to do, Mr Webb said there was ‘no doubt’ that some suicidal people have decided not to take their own lives after ringing the organisation.

If you are interested in becoming a Samaritan call 01305 770598 or email weymouthsamaritansrecruitment@gmail.com for more information.

Dr Forbes Watson – chairman of Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Whilst the Suicide Prevention Group no longer meets, all local partners continue to work closely together to offer relevant support services and signposting for people who may be experiencing mental health problems. We have a number of initiatives in place and are focused on improving mental health across all local communities including training for frontline workers.

“If anyone feels they need help or would like to talk to someone they should speak to their GP.”

  • A Crisis Home Treatment Service also operates across Dorset.

The purpose of Dorset HealthCare’s Crisis Home Treatment Service is to offer support and treatment for adults experiencing acute mental health problems. The service exists to provide a safe alternative to inpatient care for people requiring acute care. The Crisis Home Treatment Service also provides out of office hours support for people receiving services from Dorset Healthcare Mental Health Services.

The north and west Dorset out of hours access to Crisis response number is 01305 361269. This is also the out of hours psychiatrist number in the west.

South and east Dorset’s Crisis team is on 01202 652000.

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