UEL's Centre for Social Work Research finds East Sussex programme provides crucial aid to suicidal people
'The Place of Calm' model could be used in other parts of the country
A University of East London report has found that a unique pilot programme which offers people experiencing emotional distress or feeling suicidal short-term emotional and physical support greatly improved the wellbeing of most clients.
The report, by UEL’s Centre for Social Work Research, concluded that a majority of people referred to The Place of Calm in Eastbourne experienced a reduction in suicidal thoughts and feelings, with some visitors saying the centre was crucial in their recovery.
“The Place of Calm has made a successful start as a new resource offering a different kind of support for people feeling distressed or suicidal in Eastbourne,” said the report, which was authored by Professor Stephen Briggs, Dr Jo Finch and Dr Rhiannon Firth.
“The de-stigmatising approach provided by the intervention and the quality of care provided are highly valued by guests and contribute to better outcomes,” the report said.
The Place of Calm provided visitors with practical and emotional support for up to 24 hours in a “comfortable, calm setting”. Guests were given their own space, with the knowledge that “welcoming, warm and affirming” staff were nearby and willing to provide peer and one-to-one support.
Guests could eat, shower and sleep. They were also given a follow-up plan when they left that included resources and contacts.
Guests reported receiving quality care at The Place of Calm and said they felt understood, listened to and respected.
One anonymous client remarked, “I was treated like someone in emotional distress should be treated. I was not judged and they were very empathic. I stopped feeling worthless.”
The UEL report evaluated activity at The Place of Calm from January-March 2016, when the centre cared for 26 guests, all of whom were referred by outside agencies and practitioners.
The research team carried out their evaluation using interviews, surveys, questionnaires and written data.
The Place of Calm is a 12-month pilot project commissioned by East Sussex County Council. It is part of a multi-pronged approach by the local authority to prevent suicide.
The centre is managed by Sussex Oakleaf, a mental health support service, in partnership with Recovery Partners, a non-profit comprised of workers who have experienced mental health challenges and are trained as peer support specialists.
“In the Place of Calm you are treated like a human being, like a person in emotional distress.”
The Place of Calm model could potentially be used in other locations, the report noted.
“The Place of Calm has an important role to play in suicide prevention, and this it is important that it continues beyond the pilot phase,” the report said.
People can call Samaritans for free any time of the day or night at 116 123 (this number does not appear on phone bills) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals can also visit www.samaritans.org for details of local Samaritans’ branches.
When writing about this report, due to the sensitivity of the subject, please refer to the Samaritans’ Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide.