HEALTH chiefs in Cumbria have agreed an updated strategy intended to reduce suicide rates and tackle self-harm across the county.

The raft of measures was put to the county council’s Health and Wellbeing Board today (Friday July 5) who then formally adopted them.

Colin Cox, director of public health, described suicide as a “significant challenge” for Cumbria and one which remained “consistently” an issue across the county.

He added: “50 deaths a year might not sound like all that many when it’s compared to things like some cancers and cardiac diseases, but every single one of those deaths has a disproportionate effect on the surrounding people – their family, their friends.”

The refreshed strategy has been spearheaded by the Cumbria Suicide Prevention Leadership Group and endorsed at the most recent Public Health Alliance.

The Group is made up of organisations including the NHS, charities such as the Samaritans and local authorities working together to tackle the issue.

Mike Conefrey, local authority health manager, also revealed that there was grounds for hope including training opportunities.

A tranche of Government funding worth £25m is set to be delivered to the region over a three-year period via health partnerships known as Integrated Care Systems.

A national strategy released in 2012 introduced responsibility to local authorities to co-ordinate suicide prevention work.

However, Cumbria has had a suicide prevention strategy since 2009, which Mr Conefrey said put the region “somewhat ahead”.

There are three community-led movements to bring suicide rates down – Suicide Safer Barrow, Copeland and Eden

Meanwhile, over 6,000 people have received suicide prevention training in Cumbria, while awareness courses with Carlisle Mind and Eden Mind also look set to continue.

Additional training is now being funded through health partnerships and Mr Conefrey said he believed the “availability of training will only increase”, particularly with more private employers getting involved in suicide prevention schemes.

Mr Conefrey said suicide rates in the county remained “very high” but were falling across the county.

But said that rates among young people had been “rising slightly”, with self-harm among the possible early warning signs.

The action plan agreed today involves using data and research to work out how best to respond, working with the media to raise awareness and monitoring hotspots such as bridges and railway crossings.

Work is also underway to make it easier for people who self-harm to get access to the services they need to help them.

The meeting heard that one person in every 50 who is committed to hospital for self-harm will be dead from suicide within 12 months.

Anne Burns, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, suggested ramping up publicity for Child and Adult Mental Health Services in schools and hospitals.

“If it stops a couple of youngsters committing suicide then it’s worth it,” she said.

Where to seek help

  • The Samaritans free helpline can be contacted 24hours a day 365 days a year by phoning 116 123.
  • Local support is available from Mind in Furness (Tel: 01229 827094), Ulverston Mind (Tel: 01229 581578) and South Lakeland Mind (Tel: 01539 740591)
  • For those bereaved by suicide you can find your nearest SOBS support group at or call 0300 111 5065.
  • For children bereaved by suicide the Child Bereavement UK helpline is 0800 02 888 40