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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

My local perspective on Robin Williams' death

Recent reports about the death of Robin Williams and depression and suicide do not make comfortable reading. His death raises questions about whether mental health is given the same priority as many physical disorders.

Lib Dem Councillor Gary Malcolm
The death reminded me of my best friend at school, who sadly ended his own life by jumping from a viaduct. Why would someone intelligent and personable end their own life without feeling able to discuss troubles with family or friends? There was no note left, and many of the questions were never answered.

Looking at the wider picture, suicide rates in England have been in steady decline over the last decade, we are not immune in Ealing. Our mortality rate is higher than for London and England, with Ealing Broadway and Southall being classed as “suicide hot spots”.
When we look at the types of people who are more likely to end their own lives we can see how perhaps more can be done to prevent deaths.

  • Those with mental health conditions 
  • People having relationship problems
  • Carers  
  • People who are unemployed or have financial problems
  • Residents who a lonely, especially among the over 64s
  • People who have long term conditions involving pain or cancer

Ealing Council, especially now that it has more responsibility for health matters, is in a position to use its relationships with other health providers in Ealing to reduce incidents of suicide. Liberal Democrats believe Council related bodies need to keep an eye on this important issue so fewer people end their own lives.

Our general practitioners, more than ever, ask patients who have chronic conditions like diabetes whether the patients have had any feelings of being unhappy. I assume that many patients would feel surprised and not say that have had any periods of unhappiness.

However difficult we do need to encourage more communication with those who need medical or psychiatric advice and this should include victims of crime and those coming out of prison. Predicting future mental illness is very difficult but we do need to find better ways to communicate with the groups of people who are more likely to take their own life.

Locally in Southfield, the campaign to retain the Carlton Road Centre has received a phenomenal response. It is obvious that many people are aware of problems such as Councils shutting day centres, either through family or acquaintance, which can lead to people being left isolated.

Given the problem is present in many pensioners, Liberal Democrat councillors were more than happy to help fund a club for elderly members living in Chiswick and Acton. We cannot know whether this will reduce suicide rates but we know that residents can more regularly meet and have a better life. That is what politics is about.