Last week Life in Mind hosted In Conversation: with Professor Rory O’Connor, a thought leadership event designed to bring together the national leaders in suicide prevention and mental health to discuss and collaborate on topics affecting the sector.
A well-respected figure in the suicide prevention sector with more than 20 years’ experience, Professor Rory O’Connor shared his key learnings and insights with attendees at the Newcastle based event.
With the added insight from his roles as a researcher, clinician and suicide prevention advocate, Professor O’Connor discussed a range of topics at the event, including suicide prevention strategies and activities in Scotland and the challenges moving forward for the sector in general.
Speaking at the conference, Professor O’Connor suggested that he was optimistic about how the suicide prevention sector can address the challenges ahead.
“Upon reflection of 21 years of work, I’m optimistic in recognising that we have made incredible strides forward in suicide prevention, but we have even further to go,” Professor O’Connor said.
“It is important to acknowledge that suicide is ultimately a psychological phenomenon affected by social, biological, clinical and cultural factors.”
The event which is part of the 2018 Trevor Waring Expert in Residence series was chaired by National Mental Health Commissioner Chair Lucy Brogdenwho facilitated an interactive, live question and answer session with audience members.
Participants discussed a number of insights topic areas including:
- The need for planning at a public level: Professor O’Connor emphasised the need for a multi-pronged approach to the suicide prevention and outlined the challenges of siloing within suicide prevention and mental health sectors. Professor O’Connor stressed that future work and planning needs to be done at a public health level.
- The importance of collaboration and connection in suicide prevention services: According to Professor O’Connor we are all experts, trying to understand this puzzle called suicide and each of us all have a different piece to the puzzle.
- Tapping into the potential of new technology: According to Professor O’Connor there is great scope to explore how to harness new technologies to monitor and intervene in suicide risk, ensuring it is underpinned by sound evidence base and solid evaluation
- Improving our understanding of people at risk: In response to one question, Professor O’Connor highlighted that it was important for the health sector as a whole to develop a more refined understanding of groups of people at risk and to develop tailored interventions based on this knowledge.
- National leadership: The importance of national leadership and regional approaches was another area Professor O’Connor touched on with attendees including how important it is to engage with communities in supporting responses and communication about suicide and its impact.
Professor O’Connor concluded the event by sharing his view on how every single person working within suicide prevention can play a role in making a difference.
“If you are working in sucide prevention, your work is making a difference. That is a fact. It is true and while we each have a different emotional perspective and experience to draw from, it is up to us to work together to piece together the puzzle that is suicide prevention,” Professor O’Connor said.
The Life in Mind team would like thank Professor O’Connor and Lucy Brogden for their insight and time and the team look forward to opportunities for future collaboration.