Preventing suicide in homelessness services

Thursday, 4 January 2018 - 3:45pm

Homeless Link’s guidance looks at the role of services in supporting well-being and preventing suicide.

Portrait of a homeless man

Homelessness can be a lonely and traumatic experience, affecting people’s mental health while on the streets and after moving into accommodation. People who access homelessness services have higher rates of mental ill health than the general population.

The Multiple Exclusion Homelessness Study found evidence of frequent incidence of self-harm and suicide attempts amongst people experiencing homelessness, particularly where mental health issues were present. Experiences that preceded a person becoming homeless, as well as being currently homeless on the streets or in services may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or feelings and the risk of suicide attempts. Homelessness services play an important role in supporting homeless people with their mental safety and well-being.

Evidence on suicide prevention

This guidance focuses on how managers can incorporate suicide prevention into the planning and delivery of services and offer support to people using services, as well as the staff and volunteers working with them.

We suggest that tool-based formal risk assessments should be avoided. These tools, used in isolation, are not accurate at predicting future self-harm on an individual level and may falsely reassure or mislead those conducting them. It is better to have a collaborative discussion with clients, working together to produce a plan tailored to that individual that focuses on addressing current concerns and producing plans for future crises (known as a Safety Plan), which can be reviewed regularly.

Steps towards suicide prevention

Download the guidance below to learn more about:

  • How individual organisations can develop a Suicide Prevention Protocol
  • The role of staff teams in preventing suicide
  • How to have discussions with a service user about mental health and thoughts of self-harm
  • Safety planning
  • How staff should respond to an immediate risk of suicidal intent
  • Working with people who self-harm regularly
  • How to respond to a person’s suicide as an organisation and how to support staff through this difficult time.

It also includes details of agencies that can help individuals who are suicidal and where training can be accessed by staff. 

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Angharad de Cates

Angharad de Cates

Specialist Registrar in General Adult Psychiatry

Angharad works clinically in a Liaison Psychiatry team in Birmingham. Her research interests include mood disorder, self-harm, wellbeing and pharmacology.