Suicide bids stopped by award-winning council scheme

UNISON members at City of Edinburgh Council, who have successfully prevented potential suicides at a social housing block, have been recognised at the Guardian Public Services Awards 2010.

Staff on one of the council’s high-rise estates had been struggling to cope with at-risk tenants until a suicide prevention initiative was set up. More than 200 people in the frontline team have now been trained to spot signs of mental illness and a multi-agency mental health awareness group, including police, social services and NHS members, has been formed.

The initiative was launched after the Edinburgh Tenants Federation raised serious concerns with council landlords about the risk of suicides and the scheme has prevented at least four deaths since.

Personal information on residents and their support needs is now available to staff and information leaflets on mental health services have been delivered to all the council’s high-rise blocks.

The City of Edinburgh Council received the award for Skills Development in the Innovation and Progress category.

UNISON member Michael McCrossan, senior officer for services for communities, said:

“We are over the moon to have received the Guardian award and believe that the initiative has had a huge effect on the lives of council tenants.

“Mental health awareness is extremely important, especially for those living in high-rise buildings, which can be very isolating and lonely.

“It is vital to keep talking to local people, who can raise concerns and help develop the scheme.

“We hope to continue with the good work and prevent many more tragedies.”

Dave Prentis, UNISON’s General Secretary, said:

“It is a huge honour for the team to win this award, as it is such a ground-breaking initiative.

“Training staff to identify problems and have the confidence to deal with them, can clearly help save lives.

“This scheme shows how important it is to empower workers through training.”

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