By speaking openly about the problem of suicide in our society and the need to address it, PAPYRUS plays an active role in encouraging discussion in the belief that openness and acceptance lead to a willingness to both seek and give help.
Changing the Standard of Proof
PAPYRUS is calling for a change to the way in which verdicts are reached in cases of suicide.
It is a requirement for the coroner to deliver a verdict at an inquest in determining the cause of death; in the majority of cases verdicts are based on the ‘balance of probabilities’; for suicide they have to be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. The latter is the criminal standard of proof and puts suicide alongside criminal verdicts such as murder and unlawful killing.
PAPYRUS deems the current standard of proof (beyond reasonable doubt) to be no longer necessary. “It reflects a time when suicide was an unlawful act in the same way that murder and unlawful killing remain unlawful acts. We believe the balance of probability to be a fairer test and to reflect the changes made in the Suicide Act of 1961, which decriminalised the act of suicide. The current position perpetuates the stigma around suicide – in fact treats it as if it were still a crime.
Whilst we acknowledge that, in some cases, parents and families may desire a verdict other than suicide, PAPYRUS believes that the reluctance of some coroners to name suicide as the cause of death, preferring to use open or narrative verdicts, helps to perpetuate stigma.
The charity argues that maintaining the high level of proof may distort the figures of those who have taken their own lives and contribute to inaccurate statistics. Changing the burden of proof will lead to a startling increase in the number of deaths recorded as suicide. Suicide is already the leading cause of death in young people. PAPYRUS believes that many suicides can be prevented and that the scale of suicide, particularly among young people, remains a national scandal that needs to be talked about.
We have presented our views to the Chief Coroner and will be pressing for this change to be adopted in the forthcoming review of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
PAPYRUS has campaigned since 2003 for stronger regulation of life threatening internet sites.
The internet can be a wonderful asset but it has a dark side too. Most threatening is the online promotion of suicide through websites, chat facilities and social networking sites that provide detailed factual information on suicide methods, positive encouragement to suicide, and at the very worst, predatory grooming of the vulnerable to end their lives.
Research indicates that knowledge of method and access to means are significant factors in suicide. The internet provides this vital assistance almost immediately and privately. There are no official statistics but PAPYRUS has noted at least 50 cases in the UK since 2001 of internet assisted/promoted suicide, predominately by young people.
A YouGov survey commissioned by PAPYRUS in January 2008 revealed overwhelming public support for our campaign to change the law to make it illegal for internet sites to publish material that has the sole purpose of encouraging and aiding suicide.
In 2009, after pressure from PAPYRUS and others, the government modernised the 1961 Suicide Act to make clear that what is illegal offline is also illegal online. This was a step forward, but it remains extremely difficult to bring a case of suicide promotion to court, consequently the online promotion of suicide is yet to be tested in a UK court.
PAPYRUS is concerned that UK law remains an ineffective deterrent for the online promotion of suicide to the young and vulnerable.
Currently parents/carers and the public in the UK can complain to official bodies about online sexual grooming of children, racial abuse, and fraud; remarkably there is no official body to which to complain about online grooming for suicide.
PAPYRUS believes that an independent official body should be established to consider complaints concerning online life threatening material, with the power if appropriate, to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block or take down offending content.
PAPYRUS supports the efforts of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) to raise awareness of internet safety and for self regulation by the industry. However UKCCIS is limited to the UK and the internet is world wide.
PAPYRUS believes in the power of education, not only for basic internet safety, but to enable young people to critically assess and evaluate online content and to take responsibility for what they upload online.
As of September 2010 the government has scrapped the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) and is no longer requiring schools to comply with any programme of internet safety and education. Many schools may continue to undertake excellent internet safety programmes, but this should not be left to individual schools or teachers.
PAPYRUS believes Government has a responsibility to ensure basic standards of internet safety education. All schools should be required to include internet safety and education in their curriculum, and this should be inspected by OFSTED.
Download PAPYRUS’ leaflet on internet safety here.
Zip It, Block It, Flag It: A code for parents and Children.
For advice on internet safety and for reporting illegal content go here.
Medication and non-pharmacological treatments
Since 2008 PAPYRUS has been corresponding with the MHRA (Medicines and Health Care Products Regulatory Agency) regarding the availability and promotion of larger than recommended numbers of analgesics in retail outlets. This has had some success and we shall continue to monitor the situation and campaign on the issue.
Our request for research into the effectiveness of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants (SSRIs) including monitoring the prescribing of SSRIs to children and young adults was again raised following the government decision that the risk/benefit balance is unfavourable for all SSRIs apart from fluoxetine.
PAPYRUS has expressed concern about the lack of availability and long waiting times for non-pharmacological treatments, such as counseling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and whether such treatments, where available, are adequately monitored.
We will continue to campaign for better, safer and more readily available treatments for depressed young people, better recognition and understanding of the condition and age-appropriate facilities for treatment in an informal setting.
National Suicide Prevention Strategies
PAPYRUS campaigned vigorously for a national suicide prevention strategy for Wales and contributed to ‘Talk to Me’ which was launched in 2009. PAPYRUS also sits on the National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group to the Welsh Assembly Government. Siarad â fi - Cymraeg.
In 2011, we presented the experiences and opinion of our UK wide membership to the Department of Health in Westminster during the consultation that led to the 2012 publication of Preventing Suicide in England: A Cross-Government Outcomes Strategy to Save Lives. PAPYRUS also sits on the National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group in Westminster.
Responsible Media Reporting
We campaign for responsible media reporting of suicide to avoid romanticising, sensationalising or normalising suicide in the eyes of other vulnerable young people See our Media page.