A groundbreaking initiative has been introduced to provide greater support for young people struggling with mental health.
The Practise Hope scheme is a collaboration between Health Education England and the charities Mind and Olly’s Future.
Olly’s Future was founded in memory of Worthing’s Oliver Hare, who took his own life in February 2017 – two days before his 23rd birthday.
His mother, Ann Feloy, founded Olly’s Future to raise awareness of young suicide and prevention.
“I know from tragic experience what improvements could have helped my son,” Ann said.
“Oliver was such a kind and compassionate person and would have contributed so much to this world had he lived. It is of some comfort to know that, with vision and ambition from all those involved, this initiative will help others in his memory.
“As patients care lead for Practise Hope I have the chance to work with GP practices, bereaved parents, carers and young people to help shape those ideas.”
Practise Hope will run as an 18-month pilot involving 30 practices across Sussex, Surrey and Kent, supported by three local Mind branches, with an aim to roll it out nationwide.
The plan is to implement a culture change in primary care to improve support for distressed ten to 25-year-olds.
Ideas for improvement include young people’s clinics and focus groups, better use of mobile apps, ‘opt in’ procedures to alert other family members and training for GPs and surgery staff dealing with parents who have lost children to suicide.
Oliver Hare tragically took his own life just four days after being prescribed an antidepressant by his doctor over the phone.
The link between primary care and specialist mental health services must be improved, according to Cavita Chapman, clinical advisor at Health Education England.
The number of young people taking their own lives has increased, she said, and the aim of the scheme was to make children and young people feel they could turn to their local GP practice for help and for practices to respond effectively and with compassion.
The scheme was officially launched on Thursday (July 6) at the Holiday Inn in Gatwick Airport.
Doctor Geraldine Strathdee, former national clinical director for Mental Health, NHS England and co-founder of Zero Suicide Alliance, appeared as the keynote speaker and was joined by Courtney Buckler, 24, and Harees Khalique, 23, who have had thoughts of suicide and self-harmed since their teenage years.
As part of the initiative, GP practices will win the PACE setter Award for Suicide Prevention and Self Harm if they carry out a self-assessment audit of their safeguarding procedures and an engagement exercise with at least one per cent of their target population of children and young people with thoughts of suicide or who self-harm, as well as half of their staff on the issue of their own well-being.
Three additional activities must also be carried out and it is up to the GP surgeries to be creative and pioneering in reaching out and responding to children and young people.