March 4th, 2024

Talks at No 10 about Suicide Prevention by Bereaved Mother and ‘Points of Light’ winner.

Staff at Number 10 Downing Street heard first-hand about how a suicide prevention charity has used a personal tragedy to help save vulnerable young lives.

Ann Feloy, Founder of Olly’s Future charity (CIO no 1187184) spoke to Policy Unit members on Friday, calling for all medical students to have universal suicide prevention training as part of their core curriculum.

Every year 7,500 students graduate from medical schools across the UK with varying or sometimes very little training on how to talk to patients about suicide. 

Ann lost her son Oliver (Olly) Hare to suicide on 14th February, 2017, two days before his 23rd birthday. She believes failings by her local GP practice were part of the reason he took his own life. 

Ann said: “It’s imperative doctors have this training and yet it is not taught as part of the core curriculum. My charity now works with medical schools across the UK teaching suicide prevention skills so that our future doctors and caregivers can look after their own wellbeing, their peers and their future patients. Too often SSRIs are prescribed in place of a therapeutic conversation. I devised Dr SAMS (Suicide Awareness in Medical Students) to fill this gap and want government backing to ensure it is run in all medical schools.”

Almost 2,000 students at six medical schools in England and Wales have now had this two part training which teaches ten practical skills to talk about and prevent suicide and a further ten techniques to increase self- reflection and self-compassion for their own wellbeing. There is a higher risk of depression and suicide ideation among medical students than the general population, and medics are twice as likely to die by suicide than the general population. Recent ONS dataindicate that more than one UK medical professional took their own life every week in 2020. 

Since 2015 the number of patients per GP has increased by 19%, and GPs report that 40% of their appointments are related to mental health (source: Mind). Due to increasing workloads, burnout is happening at a much younger age [among doctors] when it used to happen later in their careers

The British Medical Journal (April 2023) reported that "Medical students face high levels of mental health problems but stigma stops them getting help” and a Royal Medical Benevolent Fund study found that 68% of medical students surveyed have experienced mental health pressure during their medical degree, yet 50% say they would have concerns about seeking support for mental illness as a medical student. 

Professor Faye Gishen, Director of UCL Medical School, accompanied Ann and Oskar Schortz, Vice-Chair of Olly’s Future and former school friend of Olly’s to the meeting. Olly went to UCL and studied History and Dr SAMS has been run at UCL Medical School two years running.

Faye wrote in the BMJ (Sept ‘19) that “we have a duty of care to our future doctors” and that “as a profession, we need to discuss suicide openly, and extend these discussions beyond patients to include our colleagues and students. Suicide is the most common avoidable cause of death in young people. There is an allied and growing literature around medical student perfectionism, anxiety, depression, burnout, and suicidal ideation, and the data suggest that stigma and fear of fitness to practice sequelae can inhibit medical students seeking help.” 

In 2020, Olly’s Future received funding from the British Medical Association (BMA) for the pilot at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. The programme combined Olly’s Future’s flagship ‘Talking About Suicide: Ten Tools’ (TAS10) 90-minute online suicide prevention training and its 90 minute online ‘Reflective CareSpaces’. There is an optional MENtal Health Open Mic Nights held on campus. Breakdown of Dr SAMS provision The programme is now in its fourth year, having now expanded to six medical schools (Brighton and Sussex, Canterbury Christ Church, Cardiff, Exeter, Kent and Medway and UCL) and trained over 1,910 medical school students.

Some funding is still provided by the BMA, however participating medical schools now fund this themselves, often including it in their core curricula.

Olly’s Future’s vision is a world where no young person loses their life to suicide. In 2023, one of its trustees was given a Churchill Fellowship award to visit medical schools in America, Canada, and India this spring to develop potential international collaboration. 

Ann was given a  Points of Light award by the PM Office last year   in recognition of her being one of the country’s inspirational charity leaders. It led on to the talks at No 10 and PM Office staff are due to have the ‘Talking about Suicide:10 Tools’ session themselves in April. For more information contact Ann at or call her on 07809 697495.   
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Tags: Mental Health, Community

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