A NATIONAL funding stream that has been supporting hundreds of community suicide prevention projects across England is coming to an end. Samaritans is therefore calling on the UK Government to use its new national suicide prevention strategy to restore this funding, saying that failure to do so “could spell disaster for suicide prevention”.
The NHS Long Term Plan allocated £57 million for suicide prevention and bereavement services to local areas in England. This went out in ‘waves’, so that each local area received money for three years, with those areas with the highest suicide rates receiving it first.
Local areas have spent the funding on key suicide prevention priorities, based on local data, and often supported by discussions with local groups and individuals with expertise and lived experience.
By March next year, funding in every area from this pot for suicide prevention will end. This is a matter for concern, say Samaritans, since the areas with the highest suicide rates received it first, those areas have already seen their funding come to an end. Samaritans says: “We’re in a cost of living crisis, and we know that people on the lowest incomes have a higher suicide risk. We saw an increase in suicide rates in the years following the 2008 recession. The end of vital suicide prevention funding right now is unacceptable. Suicide prevention can’t be done on the cheap.”
Darren Archer, Network Manager (Mental Health), North East North Cumbria Clinical Networks said: “I’ve personally seen the incredible impact this local funding has had. However, these changes take time to embed due to the stigma and complexity of self-harm and suicide prevention. Ending this funding stream now just makes no sense. To have a real impact on reducing suicide rates, a long-term commitment is needed so that both services and communities become suicide safer.”
Steve Barclay is Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. In the area of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, where his constituency lies, the local funding has been spent on a wide range of suicide prevention measures, including:
- A paid Suicide Prevention Manager for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to coordinate activity across the whole area.
- Training for GPs, and for non-mental health professionals across Cambridgeshire who are likely to come into contact with someone who is suicidal, such as housing officials, employment officials or postal workers.
- Expansion of the Real-Time Suicide Surveillance system across the area, along with a cluster response plan. This means that if there was an increase in deaths from suicide in a specific group of people in North East Cambridgeshire, for example, a more targeted response could be swiftly mobilised.
Samaritans is calling on the Government to include ringfenced local suicide prevention funding in the upcoming National Suicide Prevention Strategy, with the original £57 million to be increased for the length of the strategy and in line with inflation.
Samaritans has launched a petition which calls on the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay: “to commit to taking the strong, decisive action that will achieve the lowest national suicide rate ever recorded in England. This must include every Government department taking responsibility for the impact they may have on suicide risk; proper funding for all local and national suicide prevention activity; addressing the impact of economic inequality in suicide, and national and local government working closely together.”
* If you are in distress and need to talk to someone, call Samaritans any time, from any phone for FREE on 116 123. Or you can contact them by email, letter, online chat or app. More information here.
* Sign the petition here.
* Source: Samaritans