Suicide prevention to tackle communities at most risk

Samaritans has played a key role in the development of a new programme of government support for local suicide prevention, targeting high risk areas and groups of people most at risk of taking their own lives in England.

Evidence given to the Parliamentary Health Select Committee by Samaritans last year and the charity’s Local Action Saves Lives campaign, which encourages all local authorities to implement effective suicide prevention plans, have been crucial in laying the ground for more joined-up suicide prevention.

The £25m funding programme, for which more detailed plans have been launched today, was originally announced in 2016 and we’re pleased that the commitment for expenditure in 2018-2021 has been met. 

Joined up working across NHS England, Public Health England, and the Department of Health and Social Care, with experts including Samaritans, has led to priorities for funding which reflect the fact that suicide is an inequality issue and that two-thirds of people who take their own life are not in contact with health services. 

The first tranche will be used to support areas of the country with the highest rates of suicide, and is aimed at reaching those people most likely to take their own lives, including those who self-harm and middle-aged men.

The programme will be delivered over three years, driven by local needs combined with national priorities.  We very much hope that the first phase will provide important evidence and early findings will be built upon when the funding is rolled out to the rest of England in years 2 and 3.

Three times as many people die by suicide as are killed in roads accidents in England with someone taking their own life every 90 minutes. Three out of four of those people are male.

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “Since I gave evidence at the Health Select Committee last year we have been continuing to push the Government to take our calls to action into account.

“The resources being provided are limited, so it is really important that they support those people and areas most at risk as a first step. We want to ensure this funding supports best practice and encourages all relevant groups to work together to make this really count.

“We want transparency and accountability about how the money is being spent and ultimately to ensure that everyone is able to get access to the support they need, when and where they need it.”

Eight areas have been earmarked for funding initially: Lancashire and South Cumbria; Norfolk and Waveney; South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw; Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire; Cornwall and Isles of Scilly; Coventry and Warwickshire; Durham, Darlington, Teesside, Hambleton, Richmondshire & Whitby.

There will be range of work funded through this programme which aims to improve suicide prevention at every level, from raising awareness and signposting, to services to keep people safe, including:  

  • campaigns aimed at men to increase their awareness of and encourage their use of the help available
  • psychological support for people with financial difficulties;
  • better care after leaving hospital
  • support to reduce self-harm for all ages
  • training for those likely to be in contact with vulnerable people at risk of suicide. 

Samaritans has campaigned for every local authority to have effective multi-agency suicide prevention plans in place through Local Action Saves Lives, and we’re pleased that the funding recognises that suicide is everybody’s business. We hope it will help strengthen relationships between health services, public health teams, the voluntary sector and other local organisations so that together, more lives are saved.