The Northern Sub-Regional Suicide Prevention Group Grant Scheme 2022/2023 has come to a conclusion this spring with its end of project report now completed. The funding supported projects which helped to develop suicide safer communities:

  • Population focused prevention – raising awareness, campaigns, resources, training.
  • Targeted preventions – community action, training, campaigns, events.
  • Crisis interventions and recovery phase interventions – focused community support for groups at higher risk, carers and those bereaved by suicide.

Five organisations were funded to deliver projects: Chilli Studios, Foundation of Light, Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, Tyneside Women’s Health and Vision & Hearing Support.

“Creating a space to stop and reflect and allow those to realise their individual achievements was hugely cathartic and empowering."

(Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, Reaching Out project evaluation report, 2023)

As the project closes it is important to reflect on the learning from the project, and we are keen to share this widely so others can benefit. Here we identify a few of the key learning points that were identified by the project team.

Learning around programme management

  • The project has again demonstrated the value of using the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector to manage and deliver programmes. The approach has enabled organisations to be innovative, effective and creative; delivery has been efficient, and – because VCSE representatives have been involved from the start to finish of the programme – there has been consistent involvement from key partners throughout.
  • Look beyond the usual suspects when seeking delivery partners. Added reach and benefit can be brought by non–mental health charities and including the vulnerable communities they support.
  • Partnerships bring benefits but need time to set up. Set up took longer than expected for some of the grant recipients, but committing to that time leads to more trusting and effective partnerships. Build in appropriate time at the bidding and applications stage, and offer flexibility to allow for partnership development.
  • A strong, clear and consistent Steering Group (both members and roles) is beneficial. Again, this enables the building of trusted relationships, greater efficiency and better shared learning.
  • Grant givers should be really clear about reporting, particularly data that is required (for example demographics, social media reach). In community projects, no everyone is keen to give demographic data or complete formal questionnaires, so being clear and realistic about expectations is important.

“It was a brilliant opportunity; I’ve been taught skills that will be useful for the rest of my life.”

(Tyneside Women's Health, Safety New project report, 2023)

Learning around future project delivery

  • Use creative, social and educational activities as a means of engagement around difficult topics. We found that a direct focus on suicide and self-harm can be overwhelming and stigmatising for some, so it’s important to be flexible about how messages are communicated. Successful approaches included group activities (creative, social, educational) – this helped to build the trust and confidence needed to address painful, distressing topics.
  • Ensure co-production and co-design with people with lived experience, including in the delivery of professional counselling sessions.
  • Don’t underestimate degree of sensitivity and stigma around the subject of suicide and self-harm. This needs to be considered in marketing and engagement activities – we found some sensitivity around sharing personal stories digitally, even when anonymised. People felt more willing to share stories in small/peer groups, but more time and distance was need for wider sharing.
  • A variety of approaches is needed. This includes: (a) larger scale prevention and awareness raising programmes that work at scale/use social media reach; and (b) targeted interventions for communities known to be at risk, including group work, counselling and peer support.

“I feel less isolated being in contact with women who have health issues and I am comfortable talking through my own health problems knowing I am not alone.”

(Tyneside Women's Health, Safety New project report, 2023)

Project Background

The suicide prevention grants came from NHS England funding via North East North Cumbria Integrated Care System which has now completed year 3 of a 3-year programme, with projects running from February 2022 to February 2023. The five VCSE grants, totalling £169,782, were managed by the third sector, initially by Blue Stone Collaborative, then concluding with Ways to Wellness, following their 2022 merger. The focus for the final stage of funding was on fewer (but larger) projects that made the best use of partnerships and collaborations and those from organisations that did not focus solely on mental health.

This is the second of two blog posts exploring the impact and learning from the Northern Sub-Regional Suicide Prevention Group Grant Scheme 2022/2023. The first can be found here.

For more information on this project or to discuss your own ideas for health innovation projects please contact us.