New funding has been allocated to suicide prevention initiatives and counselling for bereaved relatives to support people through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

A dedicated support package worth £10 million will fund tailored projects to care for people in high-risk and vulnerable groups such as those who self-harm, middle-aged men and hospital patients with mental health illnesses.

The majority of the money (£8 million) will be for community initiatives and the rest will provide bereavement support for people after a relative or friend’s suicide. This support will range from one-to-one sessions with trained volunteers or counsellors, group support or signposting to specialist mental health services.

Appropriate suicide prevention measures during the pandemic

Local and grassroots initiatives will also include suicide prevention training programmes, awareness campaigns, some specialist support services for the most vulnerable people at risk of suicide and phone, video and online support.

Claire Murdoch, NHS national director for mental health, said: “Every death by suicide is a tragedy for the person, their family and friends – with countless lives devastated as a result, which is why we continue to expand access to mental health care, including offering help from different and convenient community locations, and are working around the clock to support people through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

"The pandemic has turned lives upside down for many people and this funding will support our mission to ensure appropriate suicide prevention programmes as well as suicide bereavement support services are available right across the country. I would urge anyone concerned about their mental health to come forward for help as the NHS is here for you.”

BarberTalk and mental health

As men spend more time with their barber than their GP, local organisations in Greater Manchester have commissioned the Lions Barber Collective charity to offer free training for barbers in the area.

They have developed an initiative – BarberTalk – which gives barbers the skills to recognise the signs that someone may be struggling with their mental health and how to help clients get the support they need. From 10 September to 10 October, 40 barbers will be given training online as part of this project. They will be added to the Lions Barber Collective ‘Locate a Lion’ map and listed on Greater Manchester’s Shining A Light On Suicide website.

Hamish Elvidge, chair of The Support after Suicide Partnership, said: “There are over 5,000 suicides in England every year and each one has a huge impact on the families, carers, friends and colleagues left behind. Their lives are turned upside down, with feelings of loss, guilt, disbelief and rejection.

“The Support after Suicide Partnership believes that everyone bereaved or affected by suicide should be offered timely and appropriate support and is working closely with the NHS and our members to establish support services in every area of the country. These services, provided mostly by local, voluntary organisations, offer emotional and practical support, which will help people cope with their loss and start to rebuild their lives.”