At the beginning of September we were faced with the loss of one of our service users who passed away in his room at Chalkhill Road. It is desperately sad that it appears that he took his own life. Our condolences and our support have been offered to the family of this young man and many of us will have thought often about him during this past month as we have tried to gain a sense of how life had become unbearable for him, asking ourselves whether we might have done anything differently so that this tragedy may have been averted.
Statistically it is likely that at St Martins we will be touched by suicides from time to time, and we must continue to do everything we can to ensure that these remain as infrequent as they have been at St Martins.
In the UK there are currently around 6,000 suicides per year. For young people aged 20-34 suicide has become the leading cause of death. Even a casual glance at some of the risk indicators tell us that many people who use St Martins’ services are particularly at higher risk – male, current drug and alcohol misuse, history of trauma, current unemployment, experience of violence, experience of family breakdown, and current mental illness, particularly depression – approximately 90% of people who take their lives have been having psychiatric treatment.
If we reflect on the tragedy of a suicide we may think about the challenges that many people who use our services are living with and of the importance therefore of the caring support that we provide at St Martins in allowing people to talk to us at times when they may feel themselves sinking into despair. We must also continue to do all we can to help people who use our services to access external resources and support.
St Martins are grateful for the work of all the staff at Chalkhill who supported this young man so professionally and who responded so competently to this tragedy when it occurred, and who furthermore have supported the remaining service users at this project through this difficult time.
On Wednesday 3 October, the family of this young man are joining staff and service users at Chalkhill to plant an apple tree in his memory.