Get to know the suicide prevention community in three short questions. First up is our newest Board member and a long-time champion of suicide prevention, Keith Waters.
How did you end up working in suicide prevention?
At age 16, I started out as a cadet nurse working in a psychiatric hospital. My nursing career progressed from there. I spent over 25 years in A&E as a mental health liaison nurse and latter team leader, which is unusual to spend that length of time in a part of the NHS where there is usually lot of movement and change in roles. But this allowed me to develop strong connections with those in the field and an understanding of people’s distress and despair though the many thousands of personal stories I heard during this time. It also fostered a belief that we can help and make a difference, and that suicide prevention is not only potentially everybody’s business but is in most situations achievable.
I’ve always believed too that research and evidence is incredibly important. I am not formal or trained in academia, but through connections with others I have hopefully learned a lot – I am a bit of a sponge!
So, I’ve been involved in mostly self-harm and suicide prevention for approaching 50 years, including as suicide prevention manager for East Midlands.
I supposedly retired from the NHS (my wife would dispute this!) although I still hold a research fellow role in my local NHS mental health trust, I sit on the NSPA steering group, am involved with a variety of organisations and settings and of course I am now also on the board of STORM® Skills Training which I genuinely feel is a privilege. I feel honoured to try to contribute in an organisation with a strong and highly respected training role in an area so close to my heart.
How have things changed in those 50 years?
I am forever reminding myself and others how far we have come. It is easy to find where things still aren’t right, but just before I started my career, suicide was still illegal, was often viewed as an inevitability, was rarely studied and few approaches in prevention were advocated.
We now have so much more including a national suicide prevention strategy, local strategies and multiagency local groups, NICE guidelines, NHS support for postvention and loads more research and training.
Even five years ago things looked different. Change is slow but it is so, so different to what it was. That’s not to say we can’t still do and learn more.
What can we expect from your role at STORM?
Now I am supposed to be retired and making time for life with Pat on our narrowboat exploring the inland waterways – but anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy chatting about suicide prevention and sharing my thoughts and struggle to say no. So, while it is felt that I still have something to offer, I’m happy to be involved in a wide variety of settings related to my background and experience.
I’ll be heading up the steering group tasked with bringing in the latest new and different perspectives and ideas on suicide prevention and self-harm, as we start to develop the next iteration of STORM® training with the skills base being so important.
We will build on the fantastic work done by Gill in putting together our last version. I particularly value the views of our consultants delivering our training at the highest level and want to ensure we listen to their experienced voice alongside that those with lived experience – both groups have a wealth of insight to offer.
Thank you so much to Keith for taking the time to speak with us in our very first 3 Questions!
Watch this space to find out more about the plans for our steering group and consultation on the next iteration of STORM®. And in the meantime, why not tell us who you would like to see featured in the 3 Questions hotseat in future newsletters!