What hopes means during the COVID-19 pandemic – a virtual exhibition to mark World Suicide Prevention Day

Virtual exhibition COVID-19 Suicide

To mark World Suicide Prevention Day today ( Thursday 10 September) a patient safety research centre has created a virtual photographic exhibition, “Hope during the COVID-19 Pandemic: perspectives from people with personal experience of self-harm, suicide, and mental health.”

The exhibition of eight pictures is organised by a team from the National Institute for Health Research Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (NIHR GM PSTRC) who work across the organisation’s mental health theme. The centre is a partnership between The University of Manchester and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.

The mental health theme at the NIHR GM PSTRC work in partnership with a patient involvement and engagement group, Mutual Support 4 Mental Health Research (MS4MH-R), who designed the exhibition with the help of researchers. All members of the group either have personal experience of self-harm, suicide, and mental health services or of caring for someone who has.

Dr Leah Quinlivan, Research Fellow at the NIHR GM PSTRC, said: “Our virtual exhibition is a great way to visually raise awareness of World Suicide Prevention Day during these challenging times, and the importance of involving experts by experience in mental health research. Living through the pandemic has been challenging and the message of hope is now particularly relevant. We aim to bring that message to others through sharing the pictures from people who really understand what it’s like to experience recovery through tough times. We are grateful to our group for helping to shape our research which aims to improve patient safety. They have bravely shared powerful images which are extremely personal to them and are sure to bring hope to others during these strange times.”

The exhibition aims to build on the successes of a similar event from the group which was held at Manchester Town Hall to mark World Suicide Prevention Day 2019.

Dr Louise Gorman who is a Research Associate at the NIHR GM PSTRC and works alongside Dr Leah Quinlivan said: “Last year we shared pictures of hope from our public involvement and engagement group for the first time. It was a success both for the members of our group but also for the members of the public who visited the exhibition. We’re hopeful that this year the images will reach more people and spread the message of hope while reminding them that research is underway to help.”

There are around 10 members of the public involvement and engagement group who meet regularly. The group which includes members from across the North West was formed two years ago as an important part of the NIHR GM PSTRC’s mental health theme’s research. They have continued to meet, while observing social distancing rules.

Stephen, group member whose picture is included in the exhibition, said: “The title of my picture is ‘light at the end of the tunnel”. It’s an image of the pier at Southport and for me is my light at the end of the tunnel and reminds me to stay positive. I hope it helps to inspire others. Being part of mental health research is incredibly important to me and has a positive impact on my life. I’m hopeful that I’m helping to improve understanding and treatment. I understand what it’s like not to have any hope so was keen to share a picture which represents the hope that has got me through the COVID -19 pandemic. This year has been so hard for so many so we need hope more than ever. If any of our work can plant that seed then I personally will be so proud.”

Nav Kapur, Professor of Psychiatry at The University of Manchester and lead for the mental health work at the PSTRC, said: “Suicide prevention is one of our major mental health, public health, and societal challenges. Effective suicide prevention can only happen when we listen to the powerful and moving voices of people with lived experience. This is more important particularly now. “

There are two main studies underway by researchers at the NIHR GM PSTRC’s mental health theme. The first is investigating patient, carer, and clinician experiences of psychosocial assessment following self-harm, and their access to psychological therapies. The second, aims to examine how involving patients families in their mental healthcare can positively contribute to improved patient wellbeing and reduce their risks of self-harm and suicide. Both the studies are designed to improve safety and outcomes for patients.

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