NHS England and Public Health England have today announced £667,000 of new funding for suicide prevention across Kent and Medway.
The investment, announced today by the Department for Health and Social Care, Public Health England, and NHS England, marks the start of a three year programme worth £25 million that will reach the whole country by 2021.
It forms part of the government’s commitment to reduce England’s overall suicide rate by 10 per cent by 2021 and will support the zero suicide ambition for mental health inpatients announced by Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt in January of this year.
The money has been awarded to the Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, which is a collaboration between Kent County Council, Medway Council, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) and all the NHS organisations across Kent and Medway.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said: “Suicide destroys lives and is devastating for the loved ones they leave behind. We need to do everything we can to offer more help to people in distress and this is a big step towards that.”
Glenn Douglas, Chief Executive of Kent and Medway’s Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, said: “People taking their own lives is a big issue for the health and wellbeing of our whole population. The extra money this year will help all of us to pull out all the stops to prevent deaths by suicide. I will make sure that the STP works tirelessly to help people look after their minds and for services or support to reach people in good time.”
The funding will be spent on a range of initiatives including:
- extending the Kent County Council ‘Release the Pressure’ campaign so that more people become aware of the 24/7 freephone support line for any issue
- Suicide Awareness and Prevention training so that more people have the confidence and ability to support someone they are concerned about
- research into the reasons why people attempt suicide so that opportunities to intervene and help can be identified
- strengthening mental health services at high risk points so help is available when people need it most.
Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health, Peter Oakford said: “This new funding is very welcome and we are pleased that the work we have been leading on so far, including the Release the Pressure campaign, has been recognised on a national scale. As we have seen recently in the Coronation Street plotline and the subsequent national discussion around a male character’s death, men are less likely to ask for help from friends, family or mental health services than women.
“Just as important as the funding, is the collective will and the joint working between organisations to reduce suicide numbers across Kent and Medway. The funding will help us continue to encourage anyone who is feeling the pressure at the moment to talk to someone.”
All the different elements of the funding will be delivered by a network of organisations and will be overseen by the Kent and Medway Multi-Agency Suicide Prevention Steering Group.
Kent and Medway STP Mental Health Workstream Lead, Professor Catherine Kinane, said: “This investment is a real opportunity for us to work together across a number of suicide prevention initiatives that will have a considerable impact on our county’s most vulnerable. KMPT will play an important role in targeting high risk areas including discharge from inpatient care to ensure we are doing all we can with this funding to help prevent these tragedies.”
Cllr David Brake, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder covering Public Health, said: “We are pleased that we have been awarded additional funding to help further suicide prevention initiatives across Medway and Kent. Every suicide is a tragedy and has a devastating impact on family and friends. We are committed to doing all we can to reduce the number of suicides in Medway and we will be working even more closely with partner agencies to ensure that support is available when residents need it the most.”
The funding, which has been allocated to eight parts of the country with a high level of need, will help to ensure people know high quality confidential help is available within their community. It will include targeted prevention campaigns for men; psychological support for people with financial difficulties; better care after discharge; and improved self-harm services for all ages.
The funds are set to improve suicide prevention strategies, signposting and raising awareness through to improving quality for safer services and will help drive better surveillance and collection of data on suicide, attempted suicide and self-harm.
It builds upon major work from all local authorities to put multi-agency suicide plans in place, and work for a close join up between health services, public health teams and the voluntary sector.
The £25m investment over three years is in addition to significant investment in mental health as part of the NHS’ Five Year Forward View for mental health to deliver accessible high quality care. This includes expansion in crisis care for all ages, children and young people’s services and services for pregnant women and new mothers which should also support a reduction in suicides.
The number of suicides across Kent and Medway fell slightly in 2017 to 141 (from 167 in 2016). Support is available from trained and experienced staff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through the Release the Pressure support line Freephone 0800 107 0160. The campaign website www.releasethepressure.uk also includes case studies from men in Kent who have turned their lives around after attempting suicide.