Festival of Hope and Support marks World Suicide Prevention Day

Living Magazines Herts Festival of Hope for World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day takes place on Sunday 10 September 2023, and to mark the day Hertfordshire County Council, in partnership with Herts Mind Network, hosted a ‘Festival of Hope and Support’ event (8 September) to raise awareness of suicide prevention and help people get the help they need.

Hertfordshire County Council’s Executive Member for Public Health, Cllr Morris Bright MBE, said: ‘Having lost a friend to suicide last year I know what a tragedy suicide is and the devastating effect it has on families, friends, colleagues, first responders, staff, the wider community and beyond. We want to do all we can to support the health and wellbeing of our residents.

‘Hertfordshire has a strong suicide prevention network delivering a suicide prevention strategy for the county, and together we hope to make Hertfordshire a place where no-one ever gets to a point where they feel suicide is their only option.’

Chairman of Hertfordshire County Council, Cllr Terry Douris, pictured, added: ‘Events like this are vital to raise awareness of such an important issue and highlight the local support available.

‘I would like to personally thank those with personal experience of suicide, who had the courage to speak out at the event. Their messages of hope were inspiring and will help others facing their own struggles.’

Rory Sherwood was one of the people who spoke at the event. He said: ‘There’s increasing recognition in the value of sharing lived experience.  I hope that by talking about my journey through life it will enable others to find their own voices and talk about their experiences and challenges.

‘Suicide is still very much a taboo subject for far too many people.  By sharing lived experience we can rethink about suicide, develop greater understanding, and keep ourselves safer.’

Hertfordshire County Council funds a wide range of mental health support and services in the county, including Togetherall, a FREE, safe and anonymous online community for anyone aged 16+ who is feeling low or struggling with their mental health. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Over 800 Hertfordshire residents are already signed up to it – join them today at: www.togetherall.com.

Other services funded by Hertfordshire County Council include:

  • ‘How are you feeling today?’ – a resource booklet with information about local mental health services, ranging from self-help to professional support in a crisis. It is available online at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/mentalhealth or as a printed copy from your local Healthy Hub or GP surgery.
  • Physical activity and mental health projects, funded by the council and delivered by local community and voluntary organisations to promote positive wellbeing. These range from boxing and football to community gardening, yoga, Nordic walking and more. We will soon be offering projects to support children and young people as part of this scheme.
  • Just Talk Herts, a website for children and young people, their families and the professionals that support them, providing information about a range of free local mental health services and useful resources (www.justtalkherts.org).
  • The Sandbox, online mental health support for children and young people aged 10-25 years old (www.mindler.co.uk).
  • Lumi Nova, a therapeutic digital game for 7- to 12-year-olds to help them manage childhood anxiety (www.luminova.app).
  • Herts Haven Cafés, free welcoming drop-in safe spaces for children and young people across Hertfordshire aged 10-18, to get emotional wellbeing support (www.withyouth.org/herts-haven-cafes)
  • Support groups for carers of children with suicidal ideation and who have attempted suicide and for those who have lived experiences of suicide attempts.

The council has also funded or supported a number of other initiatives, including a home trauma service, suicide prevention training for residents and professionals, suicide prevention campaigns, the Nightlight Crisis Café in Stevenage, CHUMS (an all-age suicide bereavement service for anyone in Hertfordshire who has been bereaved or affected by suicide) and projects for specific groups, including those with special educational needs and LGBT+ communities.

Find information about the help available in Hertfordshire for adults, young people, children and the professionals who support them at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/mentalhealth.

If you have an urgent mental health need, call NHS111 (select option 2) anytime 24/7 for specialist mental health support. In an emergency dial 999.

Latest data* (2019-2021) shows that Hertfordshire has a lower rate of suicide (7.7 per 100,000) than the East of England region (9.8 per 100,000) and England as a whole (10.4 per 100,000). There were 238 suicides registered in Hertfordshire in this period.

Although our suicide rates remain relatively low, the number of suicide attempts appears to be increasing. In 2022 there were 279 suicide attempts recorded on our real time suicide surveillance, and in the second quarter of 2023 the average count of suicide attempts per month in Hertfordshire was 30, which was higher than the previous year (28.8).

The Festival of Hope and Support was organised in partnership with Herts Mind Network and Stevenage Borough Council.

*Data source: Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and RTSS Quarterly report PHEI intelligence