Highgate mental health charity calls for action on suicide deaths

A national mental health charity based in Highgate is calling for local authorities, including Haringey Council, to provide more safe havens for suicidal residents.

SANE’s chief executive Marjorie Wallace CBE, of Bisham Gardens, Highgate, said local authorities and mental health services need to provide a much quicker response when a person at risk of suicide reaches out for help.

She also called for more refuges to be set up where vulnerable people can feel safe.

Her comments came on World Suicide Prevention Day on Tuesday, as charity SANE look to publish findings of its five-year research project into suicide prevention.

There are over 6,000 deaths by suicide in the UK every year.

Ms Wallace said: “We want local authorities and mental health services to provide more refuges for people feeling suicidal and to provide a quicker response when people reach out for help. Often by the time [organisations] do reach out, it’s too late.”

The remarks were welcomed by the co-ordinator of the Hornsey Lane Bridge Anti-Suicide Campaign, Sarah Cope, who has been calling for anti-suicide measures to be put in place at Archway Bridge, where there have been many deaths in recent years.

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The Summersby Road resident said: “Research says putting in preventative measures will deter people from going to other high structures.

“There used to be an SOS free phone there so people could pick it up and go straight through to the Samaritans but it’s not there anymore. We have phones on the motorway for when cars break down, so why don’t we have them for when people break down?”

Campaigners say progress was being made on discussions with Haringey Council to install safety measures at the bridge.

But they are worried that it has been derailed following the resignation of the cabinet member who had been dealing with the proposals for anti-suicide measures.

Cllr Nilgun Canver stepped down last month after being charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice in an unrelated matter.

Ms Cope added: “We’re discouraged by the fact that the councillor has had to step down. I don’t know how many more deaths it is going to take to do something.”

SANE is about to start campaigning for more guidelines to be put in place that local authorities and mental health services can follow to best serve people at risk of suicide.

Ms Wallace said: “We will be campaigning very strongly for guidelines. Suicide is still treated like a crime, and there is still a feeling of blame attached to it, which we are hoping to eradicate.”

A spokeswoman from Haringey Council said: “We have met with English Heritage, who indicated their preferred option would be for a high fence. They have requested some more detailed information about designs, which we will be providing them with.

“The next stage will be for TfL to submit listed building consent application for safety measures to both ourselves and Islington Council for consideration. We expect that to be quite soon.”

For confidential emotional support in a crisis, contact the Samaritans around the clock on 08457 90 90 90.