External Affairs Blog – Government Shares Major Strategy for Suicide Prevention26 September 2023
One hundred and fifteen people lose their lives in the UK each week by suicide. So many are living with suicidal thoughts, and though there are complex reasons that lead people to feel that they are without hope, the social stigma that prevents us from being able to discuss thoughts and feelings of harm must be challenged.
We each have the power to act in this area, empowering ourselves to understand and create discussions around mental health, trauma, poverty, and the many other difficulties life can bring. However, specific, appropriate and enabling support must be resourced by the government so that each local area has trained professionals and holistic pathways for those experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings. After this year’s Suicide Prevention Day, the government promptly released its Major National Strategy to reduce suicides, stating: ‘Therefore the purpose of a national strategy is to make it clear that suicide prevention matters. It is a way of updating our priorities, reflecting new evidence on who is at risk. The new strategy therefore highlights domestic violence, gambling, online safety and people on the margins of society because of poverty, ethnicity, disability or prejudice.’
Therefore, specifically, the government aims to provide tailoured, targeted support to priority groups, of those at higher risk, including people who have self-harmed, people in contact with mental health services, people in contact with the justice system and people on the autism spectrum. The new strategy aims to address common to suicide by providing early intervention and tailored support.
The main methods being applied to reach at risk groups and to take preventative measures so that people do not reach crisis, are as follows:
- NHS England (NHSE) is taking forward improvements to the mental health crisis support offer, supported by an investment of £150 million. This includes procuring specialised mental health ambulances, alternatives to A&E, and crisis cafés.
- The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will continue to roll out suicide and self-harm prevention training among prison and probation staff to help staff across the justice system better identify and support people who might be experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings.
- The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is procuring a call alert and transcription service across its call handlers to support the quick identification of people who raise suicidal thoughts when using DWP call helplines and services.
- The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has established a £10 million Suicide Prevention Grant Fund to run from 2023 to March 2025 to support Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations to deliver suicide prevention activity.
Day-to-day support is vital to good mental health and as a society, we should not allow people to reach crisis point before we help them. We are glad to see the government acknowledge the importance of early intervention because we know the positive impact of empowering and healing activity.
Many of our services support those who have experienced crisis multiple times, but our work is not about following cycles of crisis. We actively work with people when they are well to develop skills, networks, confidence and ultimately hope, that can help prevent future crises.
On our recent External Affairs visit to our SIG Penrose Roots service, Participants told us that meeting, gardening and eating together at Roots helps to build mental resilience, personal confidence, and wellbeing. We experienced the joy that Roots creates and believe that everyone deserves this. We want to see increasing investment in people’s wellbeing and the prevention of crisis in their lives.