NHS England has announced a £10m investment in community suicide prevention, including a bid to train barbers in mental health first aid.
The money, which will be provided to local NHS and public health teams, as well as voluntary organisations, will go towards 15 new projects during the current financial year.
NHS England said £8m would be spent on suicide preventing, particularly targrting high-risk groups including middle-aged men, those who self-harm, and hospitalised patients with mental illnesses.
Those targeted as at risk will be offered one-on-one sessions with trained volunteers or counsellors; group support; or signposting to specialist mental health services.
The remaining £2m will fund projects offering grief counseling for relatives affected by suicide.
One project that will benefit from the funding sees barbers being trained to spot a mental health crisis.
‘Recognising that men spend more time with their barber than their GP’, NHS England said the Manchester Lions Barber Collective charity offers ‘free training for barbers in the area’.
Their ‘BarberTalk’ initiative ‘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.
NHS England mental health director Claire Murdoch 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.’
The NHS Long Term Plan committed to suicide prevention programmes operating in every region and system by 2023/24, including suicide bereavement support services.
Data from last week revealed that GPs in England have prescribed fewer mental health drugs during the lockdown period of earlier this year, although GP leaders warned this could be linked to people staying at home and failing to seek their required medication.
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