Andy Le Seelleur, whose wife, Monika, took her own life in 2016, says there have been two suspected suicides in Jersey in the past three weeks and is now calling on the community and the States to work together to tackle what he sees as the Island’s worryingly high rate of people taking their own lives.
He believes that suicide needs to be treated as its own ‘enemy’ and separately from other mental-health issues.
He also wants more support for the families who are left behind, often, he says, with little or no help from the States.
This week he met Health Minister Richard Renouf to discuss his ideas and is now calling on the wider community to work together on a proactive approach targeting suicide.
‘It should be treated as public enemy number one. At the moment everybody knows it is going on but it seems to be swept under the carpet,’ said the father-of-two.
‘The perception is that there needs to be a lot more openness and honesty.’
He added: ‘There have been two [suspected suicides] in three weeks.’
He also said he understood that a trial in which mental-health triage nurses partnered with the police had been mysteriously scrapped, despite having had a positive impact.
And he welcomed the news last week that a 24-hour facility where vulnerable Islanders with mental-health issues could be taken for safety, instead of a police cell or the emergency department, was under consideration by the Health Minister.
He said that the fact that some people with mental-health issues had been warned there would be no support when services closed for Christmas showed why such a facility was urgently needed.
‘There have been 130 suicides in Jersey in the last ten years. In 2016, the latest available figures, there were 15 confirmed suicides,’ he said. ‘In England the average for 2016 was 7.5 per 100,000 people, so Jersey is more than twice that.’
He added: ‘Where is the suicide reduction strategy? Jersey has one that [Medical Officer of Health] Susan Turnbull commissioned in 2012 that covers the same period as the Mental Health Strategy for 2016 to 2020. But suicide rates are going up and nobody is saying, ‘’Why is the problem getting worse three years into a five-year strategy?’’
‘I want nothing more than a joined-up approach. And I am confident we can do something quite proactive targeting suicide.
‘Just having someone standing up saying we are taking on suicide rather than it just becoming another story in the paper and then it is yesterday’s news – but it shouldn’t be yesterday’s news – would be a positive step.’
Mr Le Seelleur is now calling on the new Council of Ministers to approve proposals announced by former Health Minister Andrew Green last year for a new £45 million mental-health facility to be built.
And he plans to work himself to raise awareness and push for change.
‘I don’t want to tread on any toes. But I feel appropriately qualified to take a lead in the community, initially from a suicide perspective, look at reduction and champion suicide prevention and then start shaping the longer-term community wellbeing,’ he said.
lNews Focus: Page 8.