Mark Winstanley RethinkCharity Rethink Mental Illness has called on the government and NHS to protect early intervention care for people at risk of suicide, saying that it can save lives.

The call came following a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), which found that more than 800,000 people die by suicide each year. The WHO said that one of the keys to reducing this figure is early identification and management of mental and substance use disorders in communities and by health workers in particular.

Follow-up care by health workers through regular contact, including by phone or home visits, for people who have attempted suicide, together with provision of community support, are essential, because people who have already attempted suicide are at the greatest risk of trying again, the WHO added.

However, early intervention services have often been subject to cutbacks in recent years in the UK, with some being stopped altogether. Mark Winstanley (pictured), CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, wants this trend to be reversed. “Early intervention care saves lives – it reduces the risk of a people with psychosis taking their own life, from as much as 15% to just 1%,” he said. “It also offers the NHS savings of £15 for every £1 it spends. 

“But early intervention services in this country have been hollowed out, and many are disappearing altogether. Vulnerable people are being left without potentially life-changing support, which means they are much more likely to reach crisis point.

“We’re calling on the Government and the NHS to act urgently to protect early intervention care in this country. If they fail to do so, they risk writing off the future of tens of thousands of people across the country.

“It’s also vital that people receive proper support when they are in crisis, but too often that’s not the case. Crisis care is very patchy across the country, and in many places doesn’t exist at all. 

“Earlier this year the Government launched the Crisis Concordat, a national agreement which sets out new guidelines on how NHS Trusts, social services, police forces and local governments can work together to improve crisis care. But now we need those organisations to put the recommendations into practice and make good quality crisis care a reality. Everyone should be able to get high quality care when they need it, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are.”