Last week marked National Suicide Prevention Day, providing us all with a crucial opportunity to reflect on our own mental health. For me, it was also an important chance to make sure we are taking steps to prevent as many suicides as possible, providing hope for a better future in Barnsley and across the UK.
Research suggests that, prior to the pandemic, 6,000 people per year lost their life to suicide in the UK. For each of these people, there are also a further 20 or more who attempt to end their lives.
However, across the country, the situation is unequal.
In Barnsley, the suicide rate is higher than average. In 2019, the national average suicide rate for people of all ages was 9.9 per 100,000, whereas Barnsley had a rate of 10.8.
Further, the rate of emergency hospital admissions for intentional self-harm per 100,000 people was also significantly higher in Barnsley (333.33) than the England rate of 193.4 in 2018/19.
With suicide numbers having increased since 2018, it is crucial that mental health is taken seriously, and support is sought at an early stage, to ensure that this looming crisis does not spiral out of control.
Indeed, after a year where more people than ever have experienced mental health concerns, whether that be due to job insecurity, physical health worries, or a general sense of anxiety, it is vital that we are all aware that there are sources of early support available throughout Barnsley. No matter how seemingly small the problem, it is always worth reaching out.
We can’t address the problem of suicide without first looking after the mental health of each and every individual as they experience day to day life. It is only through early intervention and support that we can ensure no one reaches the point where they are contemplating their own life
Having recently met with local mental health community group Project 14, I have seen first-hand that even the smallest of interventions and community initiatives (such as their ‘walk and talk’ events) can have a hugely positive impact on people’s lives.
However, for those who need more comprehensive support, mental health care through our NHS must also be readily available. As the NHS begins to recover from the pandemic, the increasing number of people left waiting for mental health support must be treated with the same priority and urgency as those on waiting lists for their physical health.
I will continue to press the government on achieving this equality between mental and physical health, and will also be meeting with further local mental health groups and charities, such as TADS, to ensure that the important cause of mental health is not overshadowed.
Recovery from mental health issues and a better future is entirely possible, but only with the comprehensive care, and early support that every person - in Barnsley and beyond - deserves. Please do reach out for help locally whenever you might need it. Alongside all our local charities are the Samaritans who are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 116 123.