Community projects working in areas with a higher rate of mental health issues are set to be given a funding boost in a bid to drive down suicide rates in Leeds.
Some £70,000 has been pledged to fund public health grants for local groups today, on World Suicide Prevention Day.
The cash has been earmarked by Leeds City Council to demonstrate its “commitment to help tackle this important issue”, and reducing suicide rates particularly among men.
It will be distributed to areas in the city “that need it most”, and the new grant scheme is being launched at a special briefing event at the St George’s Conference Centre, in Leeds city centre today.
More than 6,000 people die by suicide every year on average, according to national statistics.
In Leeds alone, most recent data from 2011-2013 shows that 213 deaths were attributed to suicide. Some 141 - more than 82 per cent - of those were men.
Authorities, organisations and charities across the city have backed the national awareness day today, including former Leeds Rhinos Rugby League player Luke Ambler, whose brother-in-law Andy Roberts took his own life in 2016.
Following his death, Mr Ambler launched Andys Man Club - where man can meet to support each other with mental health issues - which now meets every week in Leeds.
He said: “Our family were devastated when we lost Andy and we still are.
“He was the inspiration for setting up the club, so that no one ever has to go through what we have.
“It’s a safe space where men come together and speak openly with each other.”
Mr Ambler, who played 10 times for the Rhinos but spent most of his rugby career with Halifax, said it’s important to make sure men don’t bottle up emotions.
“Men are told that girls cry and boys don’t, and they’ve believed this for a long time but it’s the cause of a lot of problems,” he said.
“Men need to know that it’s okay to talk, so they don’t bottle up that emotion until it erupts.”
More than 20 men every week attend the club in Leeds, which meets on Mondays at Leeds College of Building.
“Peer to peer support means men come together and share their experiences.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re shy because if you don’t want to speak you don’t have to,” Mr Ambler said.
“Simply listening to what other people go through really helps put things in perspective. You can sit and think ‘I’m going through that’ and there’s nothing more powerful.”
Health bosses across the city have also backed the club, and today’s awareness day.
Gwyn Elias, GP and mental health clinical lead at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I wholeheartedly support World Suicide Prevention Day and completely agree with Luke: it’s so important to know that it’s okay to talk, to reach out, and to understand that help is available if you or someone you know feels low, distressed or alone.
“It’s important to know that speaking to a family member or friend about how you’re feeling can make a huge difference.”
The council’s funding, for community projects working to tackle mental health issues, applications will close on October 25. Grants will be distributed by the council in partnership with the Leeds Community Foundation.
Coun Rebecca Charlwood, the council’s executive member for adults and health, said: “Each death by suicide is a tragedy. This new programme demonstrates our commitment to help tackle this important issue in Leeds. It focuses on improving the health of communities that need it most.
“It’s really good that we’ll be using best practice and innovative ideas to help reduce the number of suicides and attempted suicides in the city.”
Areas prioritised for funding include Leeds’ Inner South, Inner West, Inner East Leeds and Horsforth wards.
Dr Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health said: “This programme will provide small grants of below £10,000 and larger grants of up to £25,000 for projects with a wider reach or potentially more significant impact. We will be looking for applications from projects delivering new activity or increasing the reach of existing activity in relation to suicide prevention work within communities.”
Applications are open now until October 25. For more details visit: leedscf.org.uk/leeds-mens- suicide-prevention-fund/
Samaritans in Leeds are highlighting the way they work in partnership with other organisations to save lives.
The charity - which fields more than five million calls a year nationally - works with the NHS, train operators, police and schools to raise awareness and prevent suicide.
Their volunteers also provide services in communities across Leeds in order to make suicide prevention more effective. Staff from the charity are often called upon in the city’s A&E departments, when people are being treated for a suicide attempt or self harm.
Now, on World Suicide Prevention Day, Samaritans around the country are also linking up with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA).
The NSPA has 250 members and supporters ranging from Mind to Network Rail who have partnered up to raise awareness.
Jacqui Morrissey, from Samaritans, said: “NSPA members working together are making suicide prevention more effective by using the expertise of partners and relevant organisations like the NHS and the police to reach as many people as possible and make suicide prevention everybody’s business.”
The MindMate website for young people: www.mindmate.org.uk
The MindWell website for adults: www.mindwell-leeds.org.uk
Leeds’ Survivor-Led Crisis Service charity: www.lslcs.org.uk
Leeds Samaritans branch on 0113 245 6789