Believing in Change, Collaborating for Change

At the beginning of 2023, The Jordan Legacy launched a new strategy designed to raise the bar in terms of collective ambition in suicide prevention and to plot a course of collective practical action that can realise that ambition.

Shared learning and collaboration are at the heart of this strategy because we know we can’t do this alone but together we can achieve a transformation in suicide prevention.

Throughout 2022, we regularly found ourselves questioning why it is that with so many individuals and organisations working in mental health and suicide prevention, the headline figure of more than 6000 deaths by suicide every year in the UK is not falling?

How can so much compassion, desire and effort result in no more than a stemming of the tide – what would have to happen to get these numbers on a downward trend?

Some might question whether we can truly achieve a significant reduction in the numbers of people who end their own lives each year, especially when the reasons for these deaths are often complex and caused by a combination of mental illness, personal circumstances and external factors that can seem out of our control such as the current cost-of-living crisis?

In the summer of 2020, The Jordan Legacy was founded as a Community Interest Company (CIC), following Jordan’s suicide in December 2019. During the past 2 and half years, we have created a respected organisation (we’re told!), delivering talks and workshops to government departments, corporate businesses, schools and community groups throughout the UK and overseas, as well as generating research and sharing content, which has helped raise awareness of suicide and opened up the conversation with many who had not considered the magnitude of the issue.

Following the third anniversary of Jordan’s suicide, we want to focus on asking those working in mental health and suicide prevention: “Do you believe we can make a significant difference in reducing suicides?” and, if so, “how would we achieve that?” We believe we must find the answer to this question and then implement the solution. We can no longer accept the loss of more than 6,000 men, women and children every year in the UK to suicide.

Recognising that government can’t or won’t commit sufficient resources to significantly reducing suicides in the UK (can you see that changing?!) and that NHS mental health services are stretched to breaking point, a strategic plan is required which pulls together ‘what can be done’ by engaging with all those working in suicide prevention who also want to significantly reduce the numbers of suicides in the UK and who believe we can do that.

The Jordan Legacy’s proposal is a long-term, collaborative initiative, which will be rolled-out in phases during the next 12-24 months. Here is an outline of the approach we will be taking:

From Shared Learning to Collaborative Action

Phase 1 – Do we share the same vision, values and ambition?

Do you believe that most suicides are preventable? Do you believe that we can significantly reduce the number of suicides in the UK? If you answered yes to both those questions, we would like to talk to you, as part of The Jordan Legacy’s action research project, about what difference you think we can make and how we can achieve it.

As well as checking the extent to which there is a shared vision and ambition, we also want to identify key shared values. At The Jordan Legacy, we believe it’s important to have humility and to be collaborative. No matter how much we know – from evidence and experience – about what ‘works’ in reducing suicides, we know we don’t have all the answers and so need to keep listening and learning. And we need to work together – collaborate not compete!

Phase 2 – Interviews, conversations and analysis

From January 2023, The Jordan Legacy will conduct one-to-one interviews with stakeholders identified in Phase 1. During each interview, we want to ask up to 10 questions, which, when narrowed down, should answer the key questions; ‘Do you believe we can make a significant difference in reducing suicides?’ and ‘How would we achieve that?’

We want to hear your public views and perhaps those you’d be less inclined to share outside of a private interview. The answers to these questions, will form the basis of a high-ambition strategy by generating lots of micro actions which together lead to a significant macro change in the numbers of suicides happening each year.

Phase 3 – Action centred discussion forums

By summer 2023, we aim to organise a series of discussion group forums to share the emerging research project findings and further investigate what could be done to significantly reduce the number of annual suicides in the UK. All aspects of the research will be reviewed and challenged. This will involve issues such as questioning language around suicide prevention initiatives, including the use of terms like ‘Zero Suicide’ and whether this is the right language to be using? We know this term doesn’t sit well with some individuals and groups and identifying language that unites and motivates action is an important part of the process.

Phase 4 – Collaborative action plan launch events

As we move into the Autumn of 2023, The Jordan Legacy will launch a series of physical and online events, where we will invite those people we interviewed, and those they recommend should attend, to discuss how the findings from the research project can best be implemented as a collaborative action plan.

Phase 5 – Implementation and continuous action learning

A plan will be created to implement the agreed recommendations and collaborative approach. The plan will highlight what is working and will work in reducing the numbers of suicides. It will not be a static plan or snapshot research exercise, it will be a dynamic action learning process which will continue relentlessly until we achieve our vision and ambition.

Can we achieve this ambition?

We are wanting to be ambitious in reducing the numbers of suicides – because we think we should and we believe we can – but we want to hear from those we know we need to work with collaboratively to achieve this ambition. How can we do this together?

Some might also think it’s ambitious to carry out the scheduled research project but we are committed to this and we know there are many people and organisations wanting to engage in identifying and implementing the actions that will reduce the number of suicides in the UK.

We have previously used terms like “moving towards a zero suicide society” to describe our vision and ambition, although we know this gets pushback from people who interpret it as, for example, an unrealistic target rather than implementing a philosophy and framework which can significantly reduce the number of suicides. A ‘zero suicide society’ in our eyes is a society that is willing and able to do all it can to prevent all preventable suicides. Again, shared learning and collaboration are key to a common understanding and collective action. And we shouldn’t let language divide us!

Government is of course part of the solution, but it’s important to remember they are only part of the solution. We all need to look at what we can do ourselves, through our organisations, in our communities, through our workplaces, etc and how we can take collaborative action independent of government as well as being clear, specific and demanding in terms of what we know we need from government and publicly-funded services.

We know that Government is sympathetic to high profile cases of suicide, such as the much-publicised campaigning by Ian Russell, Molly’s father, or Andy, Mike and Tim, the 3 Dad’s Walking – who have provided an action focus as well as massive awareness-raising – but there is only so much these incredible people can do alone, no matter how much public support and media coverage their tragic and yet hopeful campaigning generates.

With our combination of ambition on suicide prevention, our belief we can significantly reduce the number of suicides, our humility in knowing we don’t have all the answers, and our confidence that collectively we can make a difference, The Jordan Legacy is aiming to be a key facilitator in the process.

We believe that The Jordan Legacy’s action research project and collaborative action plan will produce a positive ripple effect.

Lots of small actions can add up to a huge overall impact, sufficient to create a significant downward trend.

And big change often starts with small steps. Our step one is listening to and learning from you. So if you ‘believe we should and believe we can’ significantly reduce the number of suicides in the UK, let’s talk, let’s talk about action, let’s talk about taking action together!

This article was produced, in collaboration, between The Jordan Legacy’s Paul Vittles and Steve Phillip.



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