Milton Keynes City Council is calling for more mental health funding in the Government’s Autumn Statement, as figures estimate that an average 25 people die by suicide each year in Milton Keynes.
The City Council’s Cabinet Member for Mental Health, Councillor Emily Darlington, has written to the Chancellor highlighting the need to renew local funding for suicide prevention.
Milton Keynes was among the areas that received ring-fenced NHS England funding for suicide prevention in 2019, which meant vital initiatives could be delivered by the NHS locally including:
BLMK’s Suicide Prevention Pathway Service, which supports people with suicidal thoughts and those who have been bereaved by suicide
The ‘Stay Alive’ app which provides advice and support for those struggling
A Suicide Prevention Community Grant Scheme where organisations such as Harry’s Rainbow, Ride High and MK Act deliver programmes to support those who are at higher risk of suicide
However, the funding will come to an end in March 2024 and no further funding packages have yet been announced. The Chancellor is facing increased calls to allocate more cash to allow areas to continue their vital suicide prevention work.
This comes as suicide is the leading cause of death in males under 50 and females under 35, with over 5,000 people tragically taking their own lives in 2021 alone.
Councillor Darlington is among local leaders calling for better funding for mental health support. The text of the letter sent to the Chancellor is below:
Dear Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP,
I am writing to you on behalf of Milton Keynes City Council about the need to renew local funding for suicide prevention in the Autumn budget.
Suicide is the leading cause of death in males under 50 years and females under 35 years in the UK, with the latest available figures confirming that 5,219 people in England tragically took their own lives in 2021. Local suicide prevention activity is critical in preventing suicides across England.
I am concerned about ring-fenced NHS England funding coming to an end in March 2024, particularly when so much progress has been made in Milton Keynes in the last few years. Sadly, on average 25 people die by suicide every year in Milton Keynes. The Council records real-time suicide data and from 2021 a downward trend has been observed, although this data needs to be interpreted with caution.
This ring-fenced funding has provided us with the opportunity to deliver dedicated suicide prevention work over the last three years. This includes Mind BLMK's Suicide Prevention Pathway Service, a service to support people with suicidal thoughts or who have made previous suicide attempts. It also funds a bereavement by suicide support service for those who have been bereaved by suicide, who we know are four times more likely to go on to take their own lives.
Alongside these crucial services, we’ve implemented the Stay Alive App, which provides advice and support for anyone who may be thinking about suicide or who is worried about someone else. We’ve also administered a Suicide Prevention Community Grant Scheme where organisations like Harry’s Rainbow, Ride High, YMCA and MK Act have delivered programmes to support those we know are at higher risk of suicide.
This work is vital if we want to achieve the government's target of reducing suicides in the next five years. Retaining the ring-fenced funding would enable us to continue this important work and build on the good progress we have made in Milton Keynes.
Suicide can be prevented, and we must strive to do everything in our power to do so.
I hope you will confirm that this vital funding will continue in the upcoming Autumn Statement to enable local councils to play our part in reducing the number of people who die by suicide.
Councillor Emily Darlington