Pioneering crisis centre to close despite suicide trend

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The Independent Online
THE CLOSURE of a pioneering crisis intervention centre believed to have prevented numerous suicide attempts has been rubber-stamped by Coventry council, writes Jack O'Sullivan.

The decision to close at the end of September comes a week after the Government's Health of the Nation White Paper called for a 15 per cent cut in the suicide rate by 2000. The document referred to 'a particularly worrying' rise in the suicide rate for young men.

The 24-hour-a-day Coventry emergency service, one of four in the country, offers immediate counselling, in residence if necessary, for people going through emotional crises. It was opened after research found nearly half the people referred to Coventry's psychiatric hospitals were not mentally ill.

Coventry social services and the health authority have been trying to expand services for the severely mentally ill, such as schizophrenics, with no extra cash, but the crisis intervention centre has fallen victim to the squeeze.

Tim O'Shea, a senior case worker at the centre, said: 'We see ordinary people who happen to be in extraordinary circumstances. Something terrible happens to them and they face an extreme crisis . . '

Bob Kedward, Coventry's assistant director of social services, said: 'We will maintain a commitment to crisis intervention with new community-based mental health teams.' However, he could not guarantee the present level of service. Mr Kedward added: 'They will receive care provided their need can be said to have the same priority as the other needs that are not now being met.'

Bernie Sims, a nurse in Coventry who was helped by the centre during a period of family crisis, said: 'I am afraid that, without the centre, people will have to go to the GP, then wait to be referred to a psychiatrist and a placement in a psychiatric unit, which is often the last place you want to go if you feel suicidal.'