EFFORTS to reduce the 'terrible impact' of suicide and self harm in Oxfordshire are being stepped up as a report reveals two thirds of those who killed themselves in 2017 and 2018 were not in contact with mental health services at the time of their death.

The Oxfordshire Suicide Prevention Multi-Agency Group, created in 2014 to coordinate work across the county and bring together public, private and charity organisations, has published its draft strategy for 2020-2024 and is calling on people to give their feedback.

Group chairman Donna Husband, in an introduction to the document which includes the latest statistics for the county, said: "This will require a dedicated and long-term focus and a commitment to continue to work together so that suicide and self-harm prevention truly becomes everyone’s business.

“You will read within this document the progress that the partnership has made so far but there is still more that can be done to align our efforts to offer the right support, at the right time, to those in need."

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Initiatives have included working with emergency services to monitor local suicide data in real time to highlight any emerging trends, risk factors and high-risk groups, as well as supporting bereaved families and raising awareness.

Ms Husband said: “Not only is improving people’s mental health a priority for Oxfordshire’s Health and Wellbeing Board, but it is also a mission to support the whole population’s mental wellbeing.

“The fact that a majority of people (two thirds) who die by suicide in Oxfordshire are not in contact with mental health services means that suicide prevention is a shared public health and mental health service priority.

She added: “Please join all of us in Oxfordshire in embracing the strategy as we aim to reduce the terrible impact that deaths by suicide have on our community.”

The document shows the suicide rate in the county has been falling over the past decade, now slightly below the average for England at 8.6 per 100,000 but that male suicides far exceed those of women, with 81 per cent of those in Oxfordshire between 2016 and 2018 men.

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Relationship issues were the most commonly identified contributing factor in both 2017 and 2018, with chronic physical health conditions, alcohol and bereavement, all featuring in the top five.

Financial problems was the third most common factor in 2018.

For self harm young people were most at risk with the majority of reported cases in those aged between 15 and 18.

The report was also able to break down mental health service involvement at time of death. It showed in 2017 just 29 per cent of suicides had current mental health care and 24 per cent in 2018.

The group's renewed strategy focuses on building on the work done previously on identifying vulnerable people and providing bereavement support for those who have lost a loved one, who themselves are more at risk of self harm and suicide.

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It has been informed by an online survey carried out for eight weeks from September 10 last year to gain insight into views on suicide and self-harm prevention within the county.

There were 632 responses to the survey, with specific focus groups also held for young people, adults with experience of mental health issues, and those who had lost a loved one to suicide.

City councillor Tom Hayes, who is chief executive of mental health charity Elmore Community Services, said: "Oxfordshire has services for people with mental ill health, but they have historically been focused on a model which relies on short interventions.

"Instead we needed a set of services which support people in the longer term. That’s why Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership came into being, which Elmore helped to found and is a member of."

He added Elmore was seeing 'significant numbers' of people with complex needs who need longer-term support, and the charity had a dedicated team for those who do not 'fit easily into other services'.

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He said Elmore welcomed the new strategy, adding: "We especially welcome the promotion of resilience and wellbeing and, as a charity, wish to work with all partners to identify people at risk and support them to access the crisis support we offer."

Dan Knowles, chief executive of Oxfordshire Mind, which is also part of the partnership, said: "Each and every suicide is a tragedy that affects communities, families and friends.

"We know that suicide is not inevitable, it is preventable. Talking about suicide is difficult – but not talking about suicide can be devastating.

"If you are struggling, know someone who is, know that you are not alone. There is support out there.”

The consultation is open until February 19 at consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk.

Anyone struggling with their mental health can contact Samaritans on 116123.