A new suicide awareness charity has been launched today (16 November 2020) as part of the national response to the 'unprecedented demand on mental health services’ that is expected to follow the COVID-19 pandemic.

The newly launched ZSA Foundation will build upon the work of the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA) with the aim of increasing resilience as the country continues to battle the detrimental impact that the pandemic may bring to people’s mental health.

The ZSA Foundation -formed on the third birthday of the ZSA - aims to continue the work of the Alliance in attempting to build on the 1.4 million people who have accessed their training and now have a better understanding of how to approach someone struggling with suicidal thoughts.

It follows increasing concerns about the effects of lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic with the Centre for Mental Health predicting up to 10 million people will need mental health support. The Clinical Leaders Network has also warned this will leave a “legacy that could inflict a damaging toll on NHS and other frontline staff as well as the public at large.”

Chairman of the ZSA, Joe Rafferty, said: “It’s never been more important than now to ensure as many people as possible have a better understanding and education of the risks involved and the skills required to approach someone who is struggling to cope.

“There’s evidence to suggest that mental health in general will become a major issue as economic and societal impact of the pandemic take hold with many more people becoming affected, so it’s crucial the Alliance continues its work and we hope the new charity will allow us to do that.

“We could be facing unprecedented demand on mental health services and all the pressures that come with that. At times like this it’s crucial that reliable sources of information and training are provided by the ZSA, which will be invaluable to many people but particularly those who may be experiencing some concerns for the first time.”

The charity will act as an arm of Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, one of ZSA’s founder members, and has four main ambitions:

  • To educate all members of the public in a foundation level of suicide awareness, providing the skills to identify the causes, effects and prevention of suicide
  • To support and micro-fund ZSA trusted partner organisations, which work to prevent or raise awareness of suicide
  • To help support psychological wellbeing in the workplace through education, events and consultancy
  • To encourage all our members to fundraise name us as their charity of the year for 2021.

As part of the ZSA Foundation’s launch, they have also released a new video of former service user Ben, who outlines his journey from planning his own suicide to his looking ahead to his future.

“We try to tell ourselves, in this day and age, that we can do everything by ourselves but we can’t,” said Ben. “We really need to talk to people – it’s part of being human.”

The ZSA have three modules of training designed to give everyone the skills required to help those who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. The Step Up Module gives tips on social isolation and loneliness, while the Gateway Module gives a brief introduction to the training including basic skills to help those struggling and takes 5-10 minutes to complete.

The main ZSA Suicide Awareness Training, which takes around 20 minutes to complete, provides a more comprehensive look at the methods to help those needing to reach out. They can be accessed here: https://www.zerosuicidealliance.com/training