NHS England initiative launched to explore alternative ways to tackle mental health issues

A new initiative has been launched by NHS England to find new prevention methods and ways to tackle mental health issues.

Backed by £10 million, new initiatives include mental health training for hair dressesers and counselling for bereaved relatives.

The funding will be used to set up 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.

£8 million has been allocated to suicide prevention initiatives across 30 local areas, including 15 new projects, during the 2020/21 financial year. The remainder is planned to provide bereavement support for people after a relative or friend’s suicide.

The programme has commissioned the Lions Barber Collective charity to offer free training for barbers. 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.

In the South West, the funding will be used to expand the Hope Project which covers Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. The project provides support to men aged 30 to 64 who are experiencing psychological distress, in debt or financial difficulties, dealing with housing or employment issues as well as those who have recently self-harmed, and are not in touch with other mental health services. Over the last 12 months, the project has supported more than 250 men, significantly more than the original target of 180.

In the South East, an enhanced bereavement support service will be launched this month to ensure anyone living anywhere in Sussex who has been affected by a family member or friend taking their own life will receive emotional and practical support from a dedicated bereavement liaison officer and the opportunity to access counselling.  The new enhanced service will have a single point of access, a triage service, a bereavement liaison and counselling service based in each of its three local authority areas and a Sussex wide Children’s and Young People’s bereavement service.

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.”

Mental health and suicide prevention Minister, Nadine Dorries said: “We want everybody experiencing mental health problems to be able to get the help they need before they reach crisis point and these new initiatives will provide vital support networks in the heart of our communities.”