Community groups from across Kent and Medway have been sharing their plans for new funding for innovative projects to help reduce the numbers of people taking their own lives.
Led by health providers and local authorities from the Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), the 27 projects have been awarded grants from Government funding of £98,000, to support innovative programmes designed to prevent suicide and reduce self-harm as part of the ‘Saving Lives’ campaign.
The projects include Stepping Out, a walking group covering all of Kent. Sue Mott from the group said: “We are delighted to be working with the ‘Saving Lives’ campaign for the opportunity to bring the joys of walking, talking, relaxing and admiring Kent’s beautiful scenery to anyone affected by suicide. This support is vital in allowing us to run three special Winter Walks designed to widen our community of walkers and we look forward to welcoming our new friends to stay on and join our regular Stepping Out walks which run through the spring and summer.”
Lizzie Lowrey from Maidstone-based project Involve said: “We are thrilled to have been awarded a grant from the Suicide Innovation Fund, which will allow us to work with those who are at high risk of suicide in Maidstone. We will be using the grant to provide information sessions around mental health, self-harm and suicide to volunteers as well as continuing to provide our supported volunteer offering.”
Ben Akers is producing a documentary style film exploring why men are at high risk of suicide and identifying solutions. He said: “Having funding for a project like this is so important because it keeps the film honest and real. With no ulterior motives other than ‘saving men from suicide’ their involvement allows me to create the film that needs to be made.”
Jackie Bergeron from Margate group Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) said: “As a group SoBS Margate supports and welcomes anyone in Kent affected by a loss through suicide to meetings which are held on the last Tuesday of each month. The funding we have received will ensure the group can run for several years to support those in need.”
Nav Mirza from Dads Unlimited which provides mentoring for men going through family breakdown, said: “This funding will enable us to continue to provide our much-valued mentoring service, as well as wellbeing advice, access to vital talking therapies, and a safe and supportive community for dads across Kent.”
Alex Hurle from Canterbury based Vault Films said: “The Saving Lives Fund has been a fantastic resource for us, and to be chosen amongst such fantastic projects, all doing vital work for an important cause, is incredibly rewarding. Short films are hugely difficult to fund, and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to bring this important film to life.”
Kay Byatt, Project Worker for SpeakUpCIC – an independent mental health support organisation supporting people within Thanet, Dover, Deal and Ashford – said: “We are delighted to have received funding to initiate ‘Bridge the Gap’; a peer support project developed by our service user members. Led by volunteer members, Bridge the Gap will comprise a befriending buddying scheme via phone and social networking; providing a friendly support network where members will be supported to connect with other members, groups and activities to help reduce the risk of their becoming isolated and reaching crisis point.”
A partnership between Therapy Partners and Firmin Transport to deliver Suicide Prevention messages to drivers and logistics staff across Kent. Vanessa Kalijärvi from Therapy Partners said: “The R U OK project is aimed at raising awareness, reducing mental health stigma and preventing suicide by working collaboratively with Alan Firmin Ltd to effectively communicate suicide prevention messages to the Transport and Logistics Sector, a large employer of people within Kent.
The funding we have received will be used to develop a mental health drop in service and build an awareness campaign online and on the roads of Kent through an accessible landing page, number plate inspired bumper stickers for the transport industry, access to a mental health hotline, and printed resources such as posters, flyers and business cards.
We aim to create an open and accepting environment so employees can talk about their mental health without judgement or fear of job security. We believe that suicide can be prevented through open and direct conversations and by raising awareness. We want to create a cultural shift in the way we talk about suicide.”
The funding is being overseen by the Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Steering Group which produced the 2015-20 suicide prevention strategy and action plan, following national priorities to reduce the risk of suicide in key high-risk groups and tailor approaches to improve mental health and wellbeing in the county.
“We will keep working tirelessly to reduce deaths by suicide,” said Lauretta Kavanagh, Mental Health Programme Director for the Kent and Medway STP. She added: “Most local people who take their own lives are not known to our specialist mental health services. We’re reaching out to our communities to innovate – test a new idea, device or method – so that all of us may learn more about how to prevent suicide. We want to understand what makes a difference to people who are feeling suicidal and works to keep them safe during those times.”
Community groups, charities and organisations across Kent and Medway were invited to apply and bids were considered by a small panel from the multi-agency Suicide Prevention Steering Group including representation from Public Health, CCGs and people impacted by suicide. The majority of the funding has been awarded to local groups from the voluntary or charity sectors.
Professor Catherine Kinane, Executive Medical Director of the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust said: “This is funding for people to develop little or big ideas, with the ultimate goal of helping to prevent people taking their own life. By working together as a county, we can make a difference and help to prevent harm and save lives.”
Of the funding, £15,000 was reserved for suicide prevention and self-harm reduction projects working with children and young people.
KCC Director for Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark, said: “This innovation grant is designed to fund grassroots programmes to prevent suicides, save lives and reduce self-harm.
“We know that in the right hands, a little can go a long way, and we are delighted at the range of projects that can benefit from this and in turn, they can also help to raise awareness and keep people safe.”
Cllr David Brake, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder covering Public Health, said: “I am very pleased that these projects have been awarded suicide prevention innovation funding. It is incredibly important that we all work together to prevent suicides in Medway. They have a devastating impact on families and the wider local community. We are committed to supporting projects which contribute to preventing suicide and self harm as they will help save lives.”
The Release the Pressure campaign urges people to seek help by calling Freephone 0800 107 0160 where support is available from trained and experienced staff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The campaign website www.releasethepressure.uk also includes case studies from men in Kent who have turned their lives around after attempting suicide.
Note to Editors:
For more information on the funding award to the Kent and Medway STP, go to https://kentandmedway.nhs.uk/latest-news/funding-suicide-prevention/
Details on the Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Strategy for 2015-20 can be found at https://www.kent.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/75058/K-M-Suicide-prevention-strategy-2015-20-Final.pdf
Figures for 2017 show there were 141 suicides in Kent and Medway which shows a year on year reduction since 195 suicides in 2014 but is still higher than the national average.