A Day in the Life of a Suicide Liaison Worker in a rural area

Anne Embury is employed by Outlook South West, a provider of mental health services in Cornwall & Isles of Scilly. She has been instrumental in developing the first NHS-funded service in England to support adults bereaved by suicide. Anne holds postgraduate qualifications in Counselling & Psychotherapy including a Master’s degree in Reflective Practice . She is a Senior Accredited member of BACP with over 20 years’ experience working in the field of mental health, including practice as a High Intensity therapist within an IAPT service.

We asked Anne to share the contacts and activities that make up what is never an average day.

8:00 am I turn on my work mobile. The client I am supporting at an Inquest today has sent a text - what she should wear? This is not unusual, there is often anticipation and anxiety. I reply, “Whatever you feel comfortable wearing.”
8:30 a.m. I leave to drive the 45 minutes to Truro where the majority of Cornwall’s inquests are held.
9:30 a.m. Meet my client and accompany her into the Inquest. The witnesses for this inquest are the investigating Police Officer, the Consultant Psychiatrist and the Community Mental Health Team manager. With my client’s prior agreement, I had forwarded her queries about her family member’s treatment under local mental health services to the NHS Trust’s Inquest solicitor, who also attended. As a result of this intervention, all questions were responded to satisfactorily.
11:30 a.m. Leave Truro to drive (1 hour) to West Cornwall for a home visit to meet with parents who have lost an adult child to suicide earlier in the week. The meeting takes around 2 hours. I carry out a risk assessment with a parent, who is at high risk with constant thoughts of suicide. Their local GP is aware and providing regular support. Ensured “safety netting” numbers are reinforced and parent gave guarantee of safety until after the funeral when I will visit again. I talk the parents through possibility they may develop symptoms of trauma as both parents found the body of their child, and normalised symptoms and explained about treatment protocols in line with NICE guidance. Left a copy of Help is at Hand, and information about our service and my contact details.
3:30 p.m. Arrive home after just over one hour’s drive. I check my emails. There are several from the Support after Suicide Partnership, of which I am a member, about some guidelines we are developing. I also pick up a new referral through our encrypted data system. I make an ‘initial contact’ phone call following the death of the client’s partner by hanging in the family home only 2 days ago. The bereaved is presenting with risk and admits she is abusing alcohol and has made a number of previous attempts at suicide. She is open to the Community Mental Health Team. She tells me she has a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder which confirms my concerns about her immediate and long-term risk.
5:00 p.m. By the time I have finished my phone call, the CMHT in the client’s locality has closed. I call 101 and speak to the Police operator in Exeter and request that a Police Welfare Check is carried out. They agree and dispatch a Police car already in the area. I call the GP practice and speak to the Duty Doctor to inform him of my actions. I send an email to the Community Mental Health Team on our system to confirm my telephone call and subsequent actions. I write a letter of confirmation of my telephone call with the GP to be sent electronically to the GP practice.
6:00 p.m. I write up my clinical notes on our encrypted data system for each of today’s contacts, including attending the Inquest in the morning. I reply to the SASP team, and make myself a cup of tea.

A breakdown of my day:

Time spent directly supporting bereaved people:
4 hours
Time spent driving:
3 hours
Time spent on admin:
1.5 hours