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Mental health leaders call for continued local funding for suicide prevention

Some of the UK's leading mental health organisations and experts, including Place2Be, have joined Samaritans in penning an open letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP. The letter calls for him to demonstrate his commitment to reducing lives lost to suicide by renewing vital local suicide prevention funding in the upcoming Autumn Statement.

The full letter, and list of signatories, can be read below.

Dear Jeremy

As you know from your time as Health Secretary, suicide is the leading cause of death in males under 50 years and females under 35 years in the UK. The latest available figures in 2021 confirmed that 5,219 people in England tragically took their own lives, and rates are rising amongst young people aged 16 to 24.

We welcomed the recent cross-government national suicide prevention strategy, including the commitment to reduce the suicide rate in England over the next five years. However, the stark truth is that suicide rates in England now are the same as they were 20 years ago. We all know that suicide is preventable so, as we mark World Mental Health Day, we ask that you not only try to reduce rates but aim to reach the lowest ever recorded.

Of course, this can’t happen without resources and long-term investment. As a first step, we urgently need confirmation that the ring-fenced suicide prevention funding that local areas have relied on in recent years will continue for the lifetime of the five-year strategy, and increased in line with inflation. We estimate that this would cost £1.40 per person - as little as the price of a loaf of bread.

The NHS Long Term Plan 2019 ensured that each local area in England received dedicated money for suicide prevention for a period of three years. Most areas have already come to the end of their funding, and in March 2024 all of this money is due to end. Yet, the 2023 National Suicide Prevention strategy recognises that this investment was instrumental in ensuring all areas in England have local suicide prevention plans that play a vital part in fulfilling the strategy’s commitment to reducing suicide rates on a national scale.

We have always appreciated your personal commitment to making a difference on the issue of suicide prevention, evidenced most recently by your announcement in the Spring Budget 2023 of a £10million fund to support the crucial work of suicide prevention charities. You emphasised the tragedy of suicide and the importance of preventing it. Renewal of the local funding in the Autumn Statement will demonstrate that the government is truly serious about reducing deaths by suicide.

Yours sincerely

Julie Bentley Chief Executive, Samaritans

Co-signed:

Rosemary Ellis, Executive Lead, National Suicide Prevention Alliance

Ged Flynn, Chief Executive, PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide

Matthew Smith, Chief Operating Officer, If U Care Share

Steve Mallen, Co-Founder, Zero Suicide Alliance

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation

Caroline Harroe, CEO Harmless & The Tomorrow Project

Victoria Hornby, CEO, Mental Health Innovations

Ellen O’Donoghue, CEO, James’ Place

Laura Bunt, Chief Executive, YoungMinds

Chris Martin, Chief Executive, The Mix

Kathy Roberts, Chief Executive, Association of Mental Health Providers

Jacqui Dyer MBE, Black Thrive Global Director

Jen Beardsley, Interim CEO, National Survivor User Network

Poppy Jaman, Global CEO, MindForwardAlliance

Sean Duggan, Chief Executive, NHS Confederation Mental Health Network

Brian Dow, Chief Executive, Mental Health UK

Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness

Simon Blake, Chief Executive, MHFA England

Michael Samuel MBE, Chair, Anna Freud

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive Officer, Place2Be

Rosie Tressler OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Student Minds

Andy Bell, Chief Executive, Centre for Mental Health

Dr Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive, Mind

Dr Lade Smith CBE, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists

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