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A father has issued a call for an “urgent overhaul” of suicide assessments and risk factors after his son went on to die by suicide after being judged as low risk by a psychotherapist.

Philip Pirie asserted that his son Tom’s assessment had been based on inadequate questionnaires, documentation that is still being used despite guidelines stating that they’re not fit for purpose, the BBC reports.

The questionnaires differ between the various NHS trusts and clinicians involved. At the end of the checklist, a score is generated and a person is categorised as having a low, medium or high risk of suicide.

In 2020, a report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists concluded that this type of assessment was “fundamentally flawed” and noted that using terms like ‘low risk’ left them open to misinterpretation.

Mr Pirie told BBC One’s Breakfast programme: “It’s difficult to admit suicidal thoughts, especially for young men. And the danger, if the client is labelled as low risk, is they get the impression that this is not a topic to go into any further. And that is absolutely wrong.”

In 2020, the government unveiled plans to invest £57 million in suicide prevention, with investments to be made across the entire country by 2023/2024 to help support local suicide prevention plans and set up suicide bereavement support services.

Men, especially young and middle-aged men, have been classified as a group at high risk of suicide in the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. In 2019, the first cross-government suicide prevention workplace was published, including sections on how to tailor prevention strategies to reduce the risks in high-risk groups.


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