Demonstration to mark World Suicide Prevention Day

Press Release on behalf of Keep Our NHS Public (10 September 2019)

Today representatives from Keep Our NHS Public, Health Campaigns Together and Mental Health Time for Action gathered to demonstrate on Old Palace Yard in Westminster against cuts to Mental Health services, to speak about the forthcoming Mental Health crisis summit on 28 September and on World Suicide Prevention Day, to highlight how 200 children are lost to suicide in this country every year.

200 pairs of shoes were laid out to represent 200 lives lost. Shadow health secretary Jonathon Ashworth attended the protest along with campaigners, health professionals and concerned members of the public.

He said:

“I’m here today because every suicide is a preventable tragedy. This isn’t just about giving people the very best mental health services possible, it’s about creating the wider conditions in society to improve people’s wellbeing and a mental health in all policies approach is what’s needed, that’s why I’m committed to a future generations wellbeing act. Under a Labour government improving mental health services will be an absolute priority.”

Dr Louise Irvine, a London GP and Secretary of campaign group Health Campaigns Together said:

“As a GP I see many people with mental health problems, including people who feel suicidal. I try to help us much as I can but there just aren’t the services there to give them timely long term support, and preventive services have been slashed. It’s now a 4-6 month wait for counselling. And often even urgent cases can’t be seen quickly enough to give them the help they need.  We need a determined focus on and resources for both prevention and help in a crisis.”

Rachel Bannister, founder of campaign group Mental Health Time for Action and a mother who’s child has suffered severe mental illness and was hospitalised 300 miles away from home as there was no inpatient bed available, had this to say:

“Each pair of shoes laid out here today represents a child who is no longer with us. Represents families, friends and loved ones whose lives have been devastated by an appalling loss. A loss that can and should have been prevented. But where is the resolve and determination to end this crisis? We know about the ‘burning injustices’ and we’re tired of the empty rhetoric, false promises and pledges to achieve parity of esteem. We’ve heard it all but now it’s time for action.”

Follow up action will be held in the form of a conference at the Royal Free Hospital on Saturday 28th September where film director Ken Loach and Shadow Health secretary Jonathon Ashworth will also be speaking to draw attention to cuts to mental health services under this government.