Suicidal thoughts do not mean death is inevitable

With the news that Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef has died today, just three days after the death of designer, Kate Spade, death by suicide has understandably been thrust into news headlines on both sides of the Atlantic, and beyond.

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Finding the words to support someone bereaved by suicide

Few people like to talk about death, and many of us feel awkward around someone who has been bereaved. Alongside our uncertainty over how we should react to a bereavement, is the fact that people bereaved by suicide have significantly less chance of receiving support from friends and family, and there are limited suicide bereavement support services across the country. To help to address this we have recently completed the editing, design and production of ‘Finding the words’, a booklet to support anyone bereaved or affected by suicide. The advice is based on the research of Dr Alexandra Pitman from UCL and it was written by Maxine Roper.

Diversity amongst students’ non-academic experience of university

The landscape of universities is changing rapidly as the sector faces the challenge of annually attracting and retaining more than 500,000 students, many (if not all) of whom are rightly demanding a high quality, impactful, value-for-money education that will provide them with the skills and knowledge to compete in the job market. Currently students report diverse experiences at university, and the scrutiny under which universities will find themselves is set to increase with the introduction of the Teaching Excellent Framework and the new Office for Students.

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New guidance on bereavement by suicide support services

As part of yesterday Prime Minister’s speech on mental health and suicide prevention, PHE and NSPA have launched new resources developed by us here at Meadows Communications to encourage the development of services for people bereaved by suicide. It is a key ambition of the Government to see that everyone affected by suicide should receive timely and appropriate support and it has been recognised as a key area of action in the national strategy since 2012 but to date support services are very patchy across England and too many people receive no help in the wake of a suicide.

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Theresa May landmark speech on mental health

Meadows Communications have been working on mental health for over 15 years. In that time we have been delighted by the way in which mental health has moved out of the shadows. Few of us would have imagined that in less than a generation we would go from having ‘Bonkers Bruno’ headlines in the Sun and very little acknowledgement or investment from Government for the issue, to having the Prime Minister announce she wants to see a ‘new approach’ to mental heath with ‘transformed’ attitudes towards people with mental health problems by reducing the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Hence we celebrate hearing this statement of intent from Government. We hope that the profile now being given to the scale of the problem is backed up with significant and ring-fenced resources and local leadership and accountability for action in order to deliver real change to the lives of people with mental health problems.

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New Year’s Honours recognises mental health champions

We are really delighted that the Queen’s New Year Honours has recognised the important work in the field of mental health of a number of brilliant and committed people who we have worked with over the years to raise the profile of, and improve services for, people with mental health problems. Heartfelt congratulations to Hamish Elvidge of the Matthew Elvidge Trust, Sue Baker of Time to Change, Alison Baum of Best Beginnings and Sarah Brennan of Young Minds.

Health Select Committee report on suicide prevention

We have spent much of 2016 working on producing suicide prevention resources for Public Health England and the NSPA. So it was with interest that we read the House of Commons Health Select Committee interim report on suicide prevention. They have provided a strongly worded conclusion and clear recommendations that more needs to be done. In particular they believe that the forthcoming refreshed suicide prevention strategy must be underpinned by a clear implementation strategy, with strong national leadership, clear accountability, and regular and transparent external scrutiny. We agree that this will provide much needed additional impetus for genuine and comprehensive action.
Interim report on suicide prevention (PDF)

2015/16 Alzheimer’s Society Annual Report

For the second year running Meadows Communications have produced the Alzheimer’s Society Annual Report. ‘Here every step of the way’ outlines the charity’s excellent year and record-breaking achievements. These include supporting over 110,000 people affected by dementia with our one-to-one and group based services, helping over 40,000 people through their Helpline and now reaching a total of 1.5 million signed-up Dementia Friends. We devised a graphic ‘journey’ through a community to help illustrate the four key areas through which Alzheimer’s Society work, alongside the compelling personal story of Brian. We provided original photography and a suite of infographics for digital and social media platforms.

2015/16 Alzheimer’s Society Annual Report

New suicide prevention guidance for local authorities

Today sees the publication of the Public Health England local suicide prevention planning guidance to support local authorities develop and deliver effective suicide prevention interventions. Amy and her team are proud to have led the development of this important guidance over the last six months. The project has involved a comprehensive review of the evidence and extensive consultation with practitioners. It has been shaped with regular input from Public Health England, Department of Health, NSPA, academics and our specially formed Expert Reference Group. A letter from the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt is being sent out to every local authority encouraging them to use the guidance. We are grateful to everyone who has contributed to the guidance and we hope that with this support that there will be more local action across England in 2017 and beyond.

Local suicide prevention planning guidance (PDF)

Our Chance, a new campaign launches

Today sees the launch of Our Chance, a behaviour change campaign to gives information and advice to reduce pregnancy risks and raises awareness of things that can go wrong in order to help mothers and their babies be healthy and safe. Meadows Communications were appointed by Best Beginnings, Sands and the Department of Health the summer to undertake the brand development for the campaign.

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Suicide Bereavement Conference

We were delighted to have been invited to speak in Manchester for the fifth annual national suicide bereavement conference. Speaking with Hamish Elvidge of the Matthew Elvidge Trust, Amy gave the final plenary session of the event, outlining an ambitious vision for a national pathway and framework for bereavement support services. We are currently developing forthcoming Public Health England and NSPA bereavement resources to help people with an interest in developing, delivering and evaluation postvention support services for people affected by suicide.

Time to Change messaging

Our relationship with Time to Change, the national movement to end stigma and discrimination around mental health, stretches back 10 years to when we were involved in developing the original name and brand identity. Since then we have worked together in a number of ways, including shaping the young people’s strategy and conducting insights research and we are keen supporters of the campaign. That’s why this summer we were delighted to be win a competitive pitch to work with them again to review and refine their messaging in advance of their next strategic phase of work. In close collaboration with teams from across the campaign, including their community champions, Amy and Amanda have developed a clearer and simpler set of key messages to challenge people’s attitudes and behaviour that will be rolled out across Time to Change’s print, online and verbal communications throughout the autumn.

Highlights of the year for the Alzheimer’s Society

Today sees the launch of Alzheimer’s Society Trustees’ and Annual Report that have been delighted to have produced. After winning a competitive tender, we created a concept to explain the day to day impact of living with dementia, and therefore why there is a need for Alzheimer’s Society, with a strong demonstration of how the organisation helps people to maintain their identity and stay connected to their communities. The consequences of dementia were shown through the image of a familiar everyday object, alongside impactful portrait photography of people with dementia, with a simple message for people to look beyond the diagnosis and see dementia. The original photography was complemented by simple infographics to present the achievements. Both elements were also used across digital and social media platforms.

Help is at Hand

It has been a privilege for Meadows Communications to work closely with Public Health England and National Suicide Prevention Alliance on producing a revised guide for people bereaved by suicide. Amy led a group of people who have been bereaved by suicide in deciding how the guide should offer practical information and emotional support to others affected. We think Public Health England should be commended for handing over control and hope that other government departments will give beneficiaries the same responsibilities when producing future products. Amy launched the guide today at the Manchester Suicide Bereavement Conference and spoke about the issue on BBC Breakfast.

Get Help is at Hand

New Help is at Hand launches today at the Manchester Suicide Bereavement Conference

We’re delighted that Amy has led producing Help is at Hand, a guide offering practical and emotional support for bereaved by suicide. Amy has spent the last six months working with others who been bereaved by suicide, along with experts from Public Health England and the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, to produce a guide with stories, advice and sources of help.

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Inside Out

Huge congratulations to If You Care Share for their successful Inside Out campaign. Launched just last year they have really captured the public’ imagination this year with simple but brilliant call to action to wear your clothes inside. By turning your clothes inside out the campaign encourages people to bring what’s on the inside out into the open. Having conversations with people is a fundamental key to survival when you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

E-cigarettes – courage or caution?

It’s been announced today that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than tobacco. Public Health England’s report even suggests that they could become such a significant tool in the arsenal to help people stop smoking that they could even be prescribed on the NHS.

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Becoming a dementia friend

Today I took a 96 year old cousin of my long deceased grandmother to a memory assessment. I’m her only living family, albeit a distant member. It was a challenging morning for both of us.

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Ambitious plans for Dorset’s healthcare

Earlier this week the new Conservative government renewed their election pledge to provide an additional £8 billion of funding to the NHS and to deliver seven day a week access to GP services. Echoing the national direction of travel embodied within this pledge and also Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of urgent and emergency services are the ambitious new proposals from NHS Dorset CCG. The CCG’s Governing Body have today approved ambitious new proposals to improve the quality, safety and sustainability of health care services across Dorset.

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Great news for women’s equality

We’re delighted to hear that Sam Smethers has been appointed to be the new Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society. Sam has a long track record of working on women’s equality issues and will be an inspirational leader to champion women’s equality issues.

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Let’s not take eye off the teenage pregnancy ball

It’s positive news that statistics published today by the Office for National Statistics show the under-18 concept rate is the lowest for for over 45 years including a drop of 10% on the previous year. It’s over 10 years since we first worked with the Department of Health and local public health teams to devise and deliver effective interventions to encourage young women to delay starting a family.

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Male suicide highest for 10 years

Bleak news today that more men are taking their own lives that at any time in last decade. There’s been a 4% rise to 6,233 suicides a year – equating to 19 deaths by suicide for every 100,000 men in 2013 (compared to 15.6 deaths per 100,000 in 1981 to 10.6 per 100,000 in 2007). 78% of all suicides are amongst men and the most vulnerable age group are men aged between 45 and 59, however, the rates have been increasing in all age groups except in the under thirties. It’s critical that more is done to encourage men to seek help early. The full ONS report can be read here.

Zero suicide ambition for NHS

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has today set out a new ambition for ‘zero suicides’ in the NHS in order to dramatically reduce the number of suicides happening in the health service. Recognising the significant stigma and taboo that surrounds suicide Nick Clegg’s spotlight on the issue is most welcome and we hope that it will bring new interest and commitment in the NHS to tackling this preventable cause of death. We hope other public services, schools, universities and employers will also rise to the challenge so the future quickly brings zero suicide communities across the UK.

This Girl Can

Congratulations to Sports England on the launch of the ground-breaking This Girl Can, a new national campaign that celebrates the women who are doing exercise and participating in sport no matter how they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get.  We think this is a campaign with a great brand (and an eyebrow raising, head turning sassy video with music by Missy Elliott) that we hope will succeed in inspiring women up and down the country to wiggle and jiggle.

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Marathon mission accomplished

Amy has accomplished her marathon on a very cold and windy day in New York City. Amy drew her energy from the wonderful crowds – their excellent live music and prolific name chanting. She didn’t stop running and she didn’t stop smiling and waving. Amy took on this challenge in memory of all the lives she knows that have been lost to suicide (as marked on the back of her bib). To date she has raised over £3,500. We intend to report back soon on how this money will be allocated to help progress our work.

We need to talk about it suicide. But we also need to research it.

Robin Williams’ death is a tragedy. He was undoubtedly a comic genius who has brought so much laughter and joy to millions of people around the world in his memorable (and at times immortal) roles. So many of his films and prophetic musings have been powerful way markers for my childhood and early adulthood.

Many health professionals and mental health charities have taken to the airwaves and social media to encourage people who are experiencing depression and have had suicidal thoughts to talk about how they are feeling and seek help.  This is really important advice that I hope people in distress will heed.

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Where you live can make, and keep, you ill

The economic and financial think tank Centre Forum have produced a hugely compelling but frankly shocking atlas of mental health variation to demonstrate the differences in the mental well-being of people across England. It exposes how people’s mental health problems are likely to be both caused by, and exacerbated by social, cultural and environmental factors outside of individual control.

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Employee Ownership Day

With today being employee ownership day I’d like to offer my congratulations to my old employers, Forster, who last year had a management buy-out which saw the company become owned by their staff. It is now 18 years since Jilly Forster founded this ground-breaking social change communications company and I was so excited to see that staff who have helped to build and drive the company now have ownership too. I’m sure employee ownership will foster ever greater energy and commitment and help continue to take the company to bigger and better social and environmental achievements. I hope too that their positive example, alongside that of long-standing employee owned companies like John Lewis, will help to inspire other companies to devolve ownership. 

To tackle disparities don’t blame GPs

Jeremy Hunt has proposed that GPs who fail to diagnose cancer should be named and shamed. This seems to be an utterly nonsensical idea. Surely, the different rates of detection of cancer, which show UK lagging behind other countries in the early detection of cancer cannot be attributed to GPs failing to spot the symptoms?

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Tackling mental health

I’ve just read my annual school magazine and it has compelled me to want to publically give three cheers to a woman called Emma who shared details of the mental health problems she has experienced since her teenage years, and the impact stigma has on her ability to lead her life as she would like. I admire Emma’s bravery in talking out about her experience because sadly the reality is that the majority of people with mental health problems do continue to experience serious, and frequent discrimination, whether that be during their search for work, accessing services or buying travel insurance.

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Come Together for HIV awareness

My teenage years were spent with the AIDS tombstone naysayer advertising. So it’s with a gasp of excitement that I watched the International HIV Alliance’s new campaign to instil in our psyche the ongoing dangers of unprotected sex and contracting the HIV virus.

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Are some cancers better than others?

The Pancreatic Cancer Action charity have today released a new advertising campaign that makes the provocative statement “I wish I had breast cancer”. There intentions are honourable, they are wanting to illustrate the desperately poor cancer survival rates of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when compared to people diagnosed with say, breast, testicular or cervical cancer. But the execution of the message leaves me feeling cold.

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Smoking promotion on our streets

I was taken aback and confused yesterday as I crossed the road in front of this London bus. It’s over a decade since The Tobacco Advertising & Promotion Act 2002 ended cigarette advertising on billboards, posters and the like. So what on earth is this all about. Here’s a packet of cigarettes with the brand name clearly enblazed in metre high letters and confidently peddling its wares down the high street. I stood looking incredulously.

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Building the future’s entrepreneurs

It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week and we are delighted that the Prime Minister’s Enterprise Advisor, Lord Young has visited one of the school that our clients, Ready Unlimited, have been supporting to embed an enterprising education.

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Celebrating Chicken Shed

Last night I attended the 25th Annual Chickenshed Gala at London’s iconic Guildhall. I got to rub shoulders with  Jeremy Irons, Sinead Cusack, Derek Jacobi and Christopher Biggins. But pushing celebrities and sequins aside, most importantly, I got to be spell bound by the enormity of Chickenshed’s message and achievements. Over 150 young people performing breathtaking dance, music and drama.

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Brighton strives to become the first suicide safer city

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and a broad range of mental health and other well-being organisations unite to use the opportunity to shine the spotlight on suicide and to tackle the stigma that surrounds the issue. I was emboldened and intrigued to read of Brighton and Hove’s ambitions to become the world’s first suicide safer city by September 2015.

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Isle of Wight breastfeeding and smoking in pregnancy work attracts attention of Public Health England

We were delighted to hear that Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England was today visiting the Isle of Wight today to learn about local efforts to increase breastfeeding rates and reduce the high rates of smoking in pregnancy. We have had a long relationship with the Isle of Wight Public Health team and in 2012 undertook a significant social marketing project to understand the attitudes and behaviour of mothers to be and new mothers around breastfeeding and smoking.

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A win win solution to empty houses and weakening community cohesion

The media regularly reports on England’s growing housing crisis, with ever growing estimates of the shortfall of homes. With news last week that there were £6.9 million births between 2001 and 2011, but yet only 1.6 million new homes built (source: National Housing Federation), it would seem as though this situation is unlikely to abate.

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A lasting legacy from the Games

The latest figures produced by the Active Sport survey show that the number of people playing sport has dropped, when compared with levels before the London Olympics. The naysayers who delight in scorning the Games as a vast waste of money  will jump on these figures in delight, and claim the legacy commitments have failed. The defenders are insisting the cold weather has been the contributing factor and that rise in participation that started before the Games will be recovered after this temporary blip (from 14.5 million people playing sport at least once a week in October 2012 to 15.3 million in April 2013).

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Innovation offers solutions to Councils’ financial plight

The London Government Association (LGA) have warned today that non-statutory Council services will be decimated if significant further cuts are made to council budgets ( The LGA Chairman Sir Merrick Cockell has described it as a “mathematical certainty” that there will be cuts to local services. It is predicted that libraries, sports centres and museums could be closed, that road potholes will go unfilled and street-lights turned off.

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The recent MMR outbreak – what do we really know about the choices parents have made?

There are now over 850 cases of people infected with measles in southwest Wales and one linked death. It is reported that 330,000 children aged 10-16 years old remain unvaccinated and the Department of Health have launched a massive vaccination drive.

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Suicide requires sensitive handling

The car manufacturer Hyundai and their advertising company,  Innocean Europe, have made a gross error of judgment in producing an online video commercial featuring a man seeking to take his own life in a Hyundai car.  In an effort to illustrate the car’s environmental credentials of zero emissions, the middle-aged man is shown connecting a hose to the car exhaust. His efforts are prevented as the car emits only water vapour.

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To improve cancer survival rates British stoicism must be challenged

The British Journal of Cancer has today reported on a study of 20,000 people across six developed countries about their knowledge of cancer symptoms and motivation to seek help.

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Suicide happens. We need to talk about it.

I want to applaud the personal story of Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive at SCIE (Remembering Adrian) for her courage in sharing her story today, the day the Office of National Statistics published the worrying news that suicide numbers increased 8% in 2011 across the UK (and shockingly 30% in Wales).

My mum took her own life in 2009. Like Andrea Sutcliffe though, I refuse to allow this to be our family’s dirty secret. Instead, I believe that in order to positively influence the work of care and support services, that it is vital to be able to talk about suicides such that we can learn lessons and look to improve. It is also absolutely critical that suicide is spoken about more openly in order to challenge public opinions.

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What impact will the new government stop smoking campaign have on quit rates?

This week the government has launched their new stop-smoking advertising. Featuring a cigarette that mutates into a cancerous tumour, the message to smokers is stark ‘if you smoke you increase your risk of developing cancer’.

The £2.7m campaign will feature across TV, billboards and online for the next two months. Smokers are encouraged to visit their local pharmacies to get a quit-pack.

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World Aids Day

On 1 December it is World Aids Day, an event that has been marked around the world for over twenty years, and which is synonymous with the red ribbon – the first of what are now a plethora of ’cause-related’ badges, ribbons and wristbands. Back in 1989, I was just sixteen, and along with three friends, I was chosen by my school to visit London for an AIDS education event. I spent the day hearing from scientists, campaigners and people living with HIV. They inspired us to return to our school and talk about the disease, the risks and encourage safe sex. So, armed with facts and inspired by the personal stories, I returned on a mission to demystify the disease and make it real for my friends. Talking about using a condom in school assembly certainly helped me gain some confidence in public speaking.

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The value of a celebrity’s story

This week, comedian, actor and children’s author, David Walliams is the latest celebrity to publish his autobiography and to reveal his long-standing battle with depression. Simon Cowell recently spoke out about feeling unable to cope with juggling the demands of his US and UK show commitments. And since the tragic suicide of Gary Speed the Football Association are encouraging footballers to seek help early, recognising the potentially damaging impact of top-flight competition.

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