Back in 2012, ‘Preventing Suicide in England: A Cross Government Outcomes Strategy to Save Lives’ was published. Since then, local authorities were required to create multi-agency suicide plans and funding was allocated to support these plans. However, this money is running out and if not replaced, it could bring actions to a halt.
Supporting Suicide Prevention
The National Strategy* detailed necessary actions to reduce the suicide rate in the general population in England and provide better support for those bereaved or affected by suicide.
The key areas of action highlighted in the strategy were:
- Reducing the risk of suicide in key high-risk groups
- Tailoring approaches to improve mental health in specific groups
- Reducing access to the means of suicide
- Providing better information and support to those bereaved or affected by suicide
- Supporting the media in delivering sensitive approaches to suicide and suicidal behaviour
- Supporting research, data collection and monitoring
As part of this strategy, the NHS Long Term Plan** set an ambitious target to:
“Deliver against multi-agency suicide prevention plans, working towards a national 10% reduction in suicides by 2020/21. This includes working closely with mental health providers to ensure plans are in place for a ‘zero suicide’ ambition for mental health inpatients.”
Unfortunately, this goal wasn’t achieved. However, as part of the plan, £57 million was allocated to support suicide prevention and bereavement services across England. The areas with the highest suicide rates received the first payments, with local funding rolled out across the country in stages.
Funding Suicide Prevention
It was intended that this ringfenced sum would fund 3 years of suicide prevention measures. This included training frontline, non-health professionals, including housing and employment officers. The outcome is that more people are equipped to respond appropriately and confidently to people in crisis.
When Covid struck, £5 million of additional funding was given to the voluntary and community sector in 2021 to support their work on suicide prevention. This was welcomed, as the demand for services increased and this provided extra resources to meet that demand.
So, the Government has invested in suicide prevention, however, alarm bells are ringing. For those first recipients; the areas with the highest recorded suicide rates, the three years is now up. Funding has ended and at present, there is no replacement. Over the coming year, all areas of England will run out of funds.
Can We Afford to Cut Back on Suicide Prevention Services?
A lot has been achieved in the three years, but this is a long-term strategy. Positive change is achieved after many years of work, so the benefits of these funded services aren’t instant. What’s more, the demand for crisis support is higher than ever. Organisations are concerned that cutting back or closing essential services and support now will have tragic consequences.
Calling on Action
Samaritans is calling on the Government to take action. They want ringfenced local suicide prevention funding that will support service provision for the duration of the National Strategy.
“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.”
They have prepared a petition and are aiming for 20,000 signatures before this will be sent to Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health & Social Care. If you believe that ringfenced funding is essential for maintaining services and saving lives, you can sign the petition here:
We support this petition, as without adequate funding, the opportunity to fulfil the aims of the National Strategy and lower suicide rates will be missed.