This Year’s World Mental Health Day Theme is “Let’s Invest”. The Families Voices Forum Call for Cross Departmental Funding of the Protect Life 2 Strategy.

There is a shared recognition of severe underfunding of mental health care around the world, highlighted even more by the effects of the pandemic. So, this year the World Health Organisation has chosen investment as the key theme for their annual awareness raising campaign.

“It is nearly 30 years since the first World Mental Health Day was launched by the World Federation for Mental Health,” said Dr Ingrid Daniels, President of the World Federation for Mental Health.

“During that time, we have seen an increasing openness to talk about mental health in many countries of the world. But now we must turn words into actions. We need to see concerted efforts being made to build mental health systems that are appropriate and relevant for today’s – and tomorrow’s - world.

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These words are echoed by members of the Families Voices Forum.  Members have been working tirelessly over the last 15 years to increase awareness and understanding about the impact of suicide in our country and to instigate meaningful changes in support of suicide prevention. It’s important to remember that these members are all individuals who have lost someone they love to suicide – a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a mother, a father.

They have used their experiences of the trauma and pain of suicide to influence policy and practice in Northern Ireland.  The most recent improvement they have helped achieve is the change to how support is offered to families bereaved and to those affected by a death by suicide from the point of PSNI response.

The Forum sees there are still fundamental changes that need to be made and maintains a continuous dialogue with those in positions of power about progress.

View notes from recent meeting with the Chief Medical Officer of Northern Ireland

There are ground-breaking concepts being tried out by our creative communities that are making a positive impact on mental health. Our new Mental Health Champion Professor Siobhan O’Neill is a great advocate for communities creating their own mental health champions and using support like the Social Prescribing services now available.

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Yet vital services remain unfunded that would provide support to prevent mental health deterioration and at times of suicidal crisis. The Forum is keen to see funding shared across the pathway of suicide prevention and not solely focused upon traditional specialist services. Crisis Teams need to be established across the region providing 24/7 support for those in need. And community services working to prevent people reaching this point of crisis also need to be funded. Our suicide rate is still too high to have gaps across different systems of support, because those gaps are loved ones lost to suicide. As the Families Voices Chairperson Claire Curran says this week in an article about suicide rates, Northern Ireland's target must be zero suicides:

"Every death is one too many by suicide and actually 197 is still a lot of people. If we lost that many people in a plane crash, there would be uproar and much more done…

"We need to protect our loved ones and we need to get better at preventing suicide and we need to encourage people to seek out help and support."

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The Forum continues to push for funding and, in recent meetings with political and statutory leaders, members have made the call for a written cross-departmental funding agreement for the full implementation of the Protect Life 2 Strategy.  If “Suicide is Everyone’s Business” moves from being a nice sounding strapline to action through shared funding agreements across our Executive, then maybe we can finally realise our bereaved family members hopes to reduce suicides in our country.