Mental health charity reacts to new Harrogate suicide figures

Harrogate District Mind is taking its support out to community hubs including Ripon library, to make mental health services as accessible as possible.
Harrogate District Mind is taking its support out to community hubs including Ripon library, to make mental health services as accessible as possible.

Reacting to the latest figures on suicide, Harrogate District Mind said caring neighbours should not be a substitute for mental health services in isolated rural communities.

Statistics released last week ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday, reveal that Harrogate's suicide rate was 10.3 deaths per 100,000 of the population between 2014 and 2016.

This compares to 10.9 in Leeds, 12.7 in York, and 11.5 in Scarborough. Last year, the number of suicides in Harrogate was 16.

Harrogate District Mind's service manager Val Longley, said it is important to have a community conscience and look out for others, but the onus is not on neighbours.

She said more money needs to be invested in mental health services for isolated villages to make sure that there is support from the earliest possible stage, before someone starts having suicidal thoughts.

She said: "People are so isolated, we need to get out to these villages.

"I don't think the onus should be put on neighbours, we have people ringing us who are absolutely distraught and really worried about someone.

"It would be fabulous to go back to having that wartime spirit in the community and looking out for your neighbours. It is fabulous to do that, but that is not a replacement for services.

"Often people need services before they get significantly unwell, to make sure that they don't get to that stage."

Based at the Acorn Centre on Station Parade, Harrogate District Mind aims to make their service as approachable as possible, recognising that having the confidence to step through the door can often be the biggest barrier to someone accessing support.

Mind works closely with other local mental health organisations and trusts to refer anyone who is suicidal or at risk of harming themselves.

The charity has taken its support out into the community, and has started running sessions at community hubs, including Ripon library.

Val said: "Rather than someone saying they are going to a mental health service, they can say they are popping to the library, it makes our services more accessible and approachable.

"I think there is a massive improvement in the awareness of mental health services, people are talking about it a lot more now. But there does need to be more funding and services in rural areas."

A key part of Mind's service is offering telephone and email support - aiming to remove as many barriers as possible for anyone who does not have the confidence to go to the centre in person.

Realising that this can make it easier to open up and start conversations about mental health, Val said: "People need someone to speak to, even if it's just a phone call.

"People start their emails with, 'you won't be able to help me', and it's so sad when you read that, because we really can help.

"People are so surprised and grateful when we get back to them, and it's sad because there is a real sense that they think people have no time for other people.

"We want to get out into the community as much as possible to help, it's a big thing for us now.

"Someone told us, 'you don't have blue lights lights flashing outside, but you do save lives'."

See the Harrogate Advertiser in print and online soon to read a feature about existing mental health services in rural communities.