Press release: West of England Suicide Prevention Summit takes place next week

Health and care leaders and representatives from voluntary sector organisations in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire will come together at a summit to help tackle suicide next week. A self-help community group, a talking group for men and a bereavement support service will be some of the innovative suicide prevention initiatives being discussed at the Suicide Prevention Summit, which will take place on Wednesday 16 June 2021.

Leaders from health and care organisations across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) are gathering virtually to discuss some of the latest work in suicide prevention happening both locally and nationally, and reflect and build on what has been achieved.

The organisation of the event has been led by Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN), in collaboration with local health and care leaders from across the area. It will be chaired by IMHN CEO, Tom Renhard.

As well as details on local initiatives to support suicide prevention in BNSSG, the conference will include presentations from Dr Geraldine Strathdee OBE, Co-Founder of the Zero Suicide Alliance, and Tom Chapman, Founder of The Lions Barber Collective, an international collection of top barbers who have come together to help raise awareness for the prevention of suicide.

Other keynote speakers include:

  • Cllr Asher Craig – Deputy Mayor, Bristol City Council
  • Martin R White – Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager, Public Health England
  • Dr Eva Dietrich – Clinical Director, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
  • Ben Akers – Co-Founder, We Talk Club
  • Mohamed Sayaqle – Somali Youth Voice Bristol
  • Marina O’Brien – Second Step
  • Dominic Hardisty – Chief Executive, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
  • Jo Walker – Chief Executive, North Somerset Council


Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor, Bristol City Council said:

“We know the Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives and has impacted on people’s mental health in many ways.

“We have been responding as a city with a range of initiatives, including the Thrive Bristol programme to help protect the mental health of the most vulnerable people in our city. Improving mental health and wellbeing is one of the key priorities for Bristol’s Health and Wellbeing Board and is a priority area of focus for this year and next.

“The One City Plan outlines our ambition to become a zero suicide city and, as we look to the future, it is vital that we continue to work with other organisations and ensure we are offering the right support, at the right time, to those who need it.”

At the end of the event, organisations and individuals will be invited to pledge their support to take the 20-minute Zero Suicide Alliance training and encourage others to do the same. This is part of a local ambition for the West of England to become a Zero Suicide region.

Following on from the success of the first conference held in 2020, organisations have worked in partnership with the Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN) to host the upcoming summit which is part of the Shine On Suicide Prevention Campaign.


Tom Renhard, Chief Executive of IMHN, added:

“Given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had, we continue to feel it is vital to be creating spaces for community groups and individuals with lived experience that are leading the fight to prevent suicide and self-harm across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

“We are supporting a wider regional ambition to reduce the number of people taking their own lives and doing that requires a grassroots approach as well as support from senior leadership. Our aspiration needs to be zero suicides. One life lost is one too many, and there is plenty for us all to do to ensure people know there is support available out there and play a role in improving things for the future.”


Dr Jonathan Hayes, Clinical Chair of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“We are really pleased to be supporting this event and working together with our partners, the local community and the public to help tackle suicide prevention, as well as help to reduce the stigma around mental health.

“Looking after our mental health is more important than ever. So many people experience mental ill health at some point in their life and every suicide is a tragedy that impacts families and communities in such a terrible way. Ensuring people know where to go for help and support and helping others to recognise signs of suicide is so important.”


Councillor Franklin Owusu-Antwi, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Equality of Opportunity at South Gloucestershire Council, said:

“One life lost to suicide really is one too many. That’s why all of us at South Gloucestershire Council are putting our support behind the Shine On Suicide Prevention Campaign to help break down the stigma around suicide and self-harm. We look forward to working with local partners to encourage greater dialogue and bring this important issue out into the open.

“There are several suicide prevention initiatives working across South Gloucestershire, including two that will be presenting at the Suicide Prevention Summit – Men’s Talk South Glos, a talking and listening club for men, and Citizens Advice Bureau South Glos, which is delivering a project called Mindful Money and support clients who are experiencing extreme mental health issues and need help with their debt situation. I would also encourage people to take the free 20-minute Zero Suicide Alliance online training.”


Jo Walker, Chief Executive of North Somerset Council, who will be speaking at the summit, said:

“Suicide is preventable. This is such an important message and I’m pleased to be taking part in the summit, working with partners across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire to support this vital work.

“Suicide attempts, self-harm and suicidal thoughts represent a major public health challenge. And while early data shows there’s been no overall increase in suicide rates since the pandemic started, this could change. The last 16 months have been unprecedented and challenging in so many ways. But we can all learn more about preventing suicide, stay alert to warning signs and get through it together.

“I’d encourage everyone to sign up to the free training from the Zero Suicide Alliance. It takes about 20 minutes to do and, having done the training, I definitely feel better placed to identify when someone is presenting with suicidal thoughts or behaviour, be able to speak to them in a supportive way and signpost to the correct services or support.”


Dominic Hardisty, Chief Executive for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust, said:

“We see every life lost to suicide as a tragic and catastrophic event and at AWP we believe that no suicide death is inevitable.

“I am really proud to be involved in the 2021 Suicide Prevention Summit and look forward to hearing from those with lived experience to help us learn and identify more suicide prevention opportunities.”

Members of the public are also invited to attend the event to share their experiences and ideas about suicide prevention.


The suicide prevention conference takes place on Wednesday 16 June from 10am – 1.30pm on Zoom. For more information and to register, please visit the Eventbrite page.

For more information, please email: .

June 11, 2021 at 1:53 pm

Are you someone with a passion for improving mental health services and empowering those with lived experience of mental health?

Do you support the principles of lived experience leadership and have a willingness to ensure this remains embedded in health and social care services?

We are looking for people to join our Greater Manchester IMHN staff team. Click here for more information about the roles.

Working for IMHN has many benefits, including:

  • being part of a growing organisation that is committed to positively improving mental health services
  • a £500 personal training budget to support your development whilst you are with us
  • opportunity for the salary to increase annually (subject to satisfactory performance)
  • a flexible working scheme
  • 20 days annual leave plus bank holidays

Apply today!

May 21, 2021 at 9:37 am

Tracy is a member of the Independent Mental Health Network in Bristol. Tracy has been working with IMHN to set up a peer support group for people who have OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder), or have a close relationship with someone who has OCD. Please find a message from Tracy below about an upcoming session, launching a new support group!

Join us on Zoom on Tuesday 4 and/or 11 May between 7-8pm for an informal chat about OCD.

If you have OCD or have a close relationship with someone who has OCD, you do not need someone to tell you how upsetting, tiring, emotionally draining, embarrassing, mis-understood, isolating, (and lots more) it is! The condition can be masked by other mental health conditions or can be the precursor to other conditions and thus, can be mis-diagnosed or left late to be diagnosed.

There are groups out there who provide support and advice about this aspect of mental health, and they do a good job. I am fortunate to have two friends who experience poor mental health in the same way as myself, and we check-in by text or messenger regularly, and especially when we feel the need to offload to someone who can understand.

The Independent Mental Health Network’s peer support team would like to establish a Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire support group where monthly virtual meetings can be attended, and an informal discussion held around the subject of OCD. The areas discussed at each meeting will evolve organically under the influence of the attendees. Each meeting would be co-chaired by Julie, a member of IMHN’s peer support team; and myself (Tracy). We are Bristol-based and both of us have OCD!

If you would like to attend the first sessions on either the 4th or the 11th of May, please email for the join details. 

UPDATE (Monday 17 May): these sessions are now running weekly on Tuesdays, between 7-8pm. Please email for the join details if you would like to attend.

April 30, 2021 at 12:43 pm

In January, the government launched a public consultation on proposed reforms to the Mental Health Act. This included publication of a white paper, setting out how the Act would be reformed. This was also the response to the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, set up in 2017.

Members of the Independent Mental Health Network came together to develop a response to the consultation and proposed reforms. This was co-developed over two sessions, and was submitted to the Department of Health & Social Care on 21 April 2021.

Click here to download and read IMHN’s response to the proposed reforms. 

Members of IMHN also featured in videos, encouraging people to respond to the consultation. You can watch these videos by clicking their names below.

April 27, 2021 at 7:53 am

Members of the Independent Mental Health Network have produced videos encouraging members of the public to respond to the consultation about the proposed Mental Health Act reforms.

In January, the government published a white paper setting out how the Mental Health Act might change. The consultation on these changes is open until Wednesday 21 April at 11:59pm. Members of  IMHN are working on a joint response about the topics that matter most to them.

Francesco and Kaz, members of IMHN, produced two videos talking about why it’s important that people respond to the consultation. These videos have been published by the Department of Health & Social Care on social media. Thank you to Francesco and Kaz!

You can read about the proposed reforms to the Mental Health Act, and respond to the consultation, by clicking here:

April 19, 2021 at 12:07 pm

The Independent Mental Health Network are excited to launch new weekly peer support sessions. These face-to-face sessions will take place every Monday between 2 – 4pm at the For All Healthy Living Centre, in Weston-super-Mare.

Peer support brings people, who experience a common issue, together in a supportive space. The sessions are free to attend and will be facilitated by a member of the IMHN team. All are welcome.

Sessions will be compliant with COVID-19 restrictions and best practice. Because we have a limited number of spaces available at each session, please contact us in advance if you would like to attend – email , or call/text: 07986 288 322.

More details can be found on the poster below. 

April 16, 2021 at 11:33 am

The Community Mental Health Framework is a national framework, launched by NHS England in 2019. This framework sets out what effective and joined-up community mental health support will look like across the country.

Late last year, the Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN) began running a series of engagement events, hearing from people with lived experience of mental health about how the framework should be implemented in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire areas. This was part of a wider ‘discovery’ phase, led by the local Clinical Commissioning Group, which heard from all parts of the mental health system.

IMHN’s engagement took the form of multiple focus groups looking at particular mental health pathways, followed by a closing Mental Health Conversations event where the findings were presented and discussed. This closing event took place in January 2021.

Please click here to download the executive report of the engagement. This document summarises the findings of the focus groups, organised by pathway.

Please click here to download the report from the closing Mental Health Conversations event.

You may also download the full combined report, that includes notes from each focus group. Click here to do so.

March 31, 2021 at 7:23 am

The Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN) are excited to launch some new training. These workshops will look at how peer support for mental health works, and help develop group facilitation skills.

The first two-part workshop will take place on Tuesday 31 March and Tuesday 6 April 2021. Please note that you will need to be able to attend both sessions if you wish to book on. They will be held in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset. Click here to book your place now – but hurry, there are only limited spaces available!

You do not need any experience prior to joining. IMHN’s peer support facilitators, Lorna and Julie, will be leading the workshops; and will develop people’s understanding of how peer support works, and build skills necessary in order to facilitate an effective peer support group.

If you have any questions about the training, please email .

March 23, 2021 at 3:05 pm

In recent weeks, discussions about the prioritisation that is used to determine how soon people will be offered the coronavirus vaccine have been taking place. Members of the Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN) in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) and the Bristol Autism Spectrum Service‘s Coping During Covid group have been meeting frequently to discuss this. Both groups were concerned that ‘Cohort 6’ 1 included a very narrow definition of ’serious mental illness’, and did not prioritise people with learning disabilities.

Members of IMHN and BASS worked together to raise their concerns with local health commissioners, who in turn escalated these to NHS England’s clinical reference group, alongside national charities who have also been campaigning on this issue.

Last week it was announced that adults with severe and profound learning disabilities, and those with learning disabilities in long-stay nursing and residential care settings, should be offered the vaccine more quickly in England. 2 This advice was issued by the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (‘JCVI’).

However, the current prioritisation that determines how quickly people receive the vaccination does not include people with learning disabilities who are not on a GP’s Learning Disability Register. The current guidance also adopts a narrow and unclear definition for ‘serious mental illness’, by limiting the category to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or any mental illness that causes severe functional impairment. 3 All mental illnesses have the potential to cause severe functional impairment, and therefore additional guidance should be issued to ensure that people who live with all types of mental health conditions are given the priority they need.


Tom Renhard, Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Mental Health Network, said:

“Wednesday’s announcement is a step in the right direction to ensure that people who live with learning disabilities are able to access the vaccine following the work of tireless campaigners across the country. There is also more work to be done to ensure additional groups of potentially vulnerable individuals are prioritised urgently.

We would welcome a swift clarification to ensure that those with a severe and enduring mental health problem can be given access to the vaccine without delay beyond the current existing narrow definition being applied.”


Ben Argo, member of IMHN’s BNSSG Mental Health Lived Experience Steering Group and Peer Mentor at BASS, said:

“We welcome the JCVI’s recent decision to add all people on the Learning Disabilities Register to priority group 6, but believe this does not go far enough. The definitions continue to completely overlook autism spectrum disorder, and do not adequately identify people with severe mental illness.

Our work has demonstrated that mental health patients have a loud voice and will not sit idly by while vulnerable people are systematically overlooked.

Thanks to the hard work of the Lived Experience Steering Group, LGBTQ+ Steering Group, and service users from the Bristol Autism Spectrum Service, we have made clear our concerns about the strict definitions used for prioritisation of people for vaccination against COVID-19. It was well received by the CCG’s Insights Team and Clinical Delivery Group that it was decided important enough to refer to the more senior Clinical Reference Group.”


– ENDS –




Notes to editors

Press contact/enquiries:

What is the Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN)?

IMHN are a member-led organisation that work for and in the interests of people with lived experience of mental health. The network supports work improving local mental health services, contributing and campaigning on mental health matters happening both locally and nationally. IMHN actively challenges mental health stigma by working with partner organisations.


What is the Mental Health Lived Experience Steering Group?

The Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Mental Health Lived Experience Steering Groupis a group of people from across the area that have lived experience of mental health. The group ensures that the views of people with lived experience are heard by mental health organisations and health commissioners when changing or improving local support. The group has recently inputted into the design of the local 24/7 Support & Connect mental health counselling telephone line, and is actively supporting the development of the local community mental health transformation programme.


What is the LGBTQ+ Mental Health Lived Experience Steering Group?

The Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire LGBTQ+ Mental Health Lived Experience Steering Group is a working group in which members can discuss issues, challenges and opportunities particular to the mental wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people. The group is focusing on changing and developing mental health support, with the aim to drive positive change for the LGBTQ+ community within services.


What is the Bristol Autism Spectrum Service (BASS)?

BASS Autism Services for Adults provide a service to adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and professionals and carers who support them. This is a service that is run by the Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. Click here to read more about them.


How can I find more about IMHN?

You can sign up to IMHN’s mailing list by clicking here. Find out more about the organisation and how to join as a member by visiting 

March 2, 2021 at 4:14 pm

[Content note; this article contains references to bereavement by suicide]

IMHN, in partnership with the Community Access Support Service (CASS) Bristol, are hosting a set of workshop sessions looking at improving what support is available to people who have been bereaved by suicide in the local area.

We will be looking at what is working well in support that is currently available, what could be improved, and where there are gaps in what services people are able to access.

There will be three sessions. Click the links below to be taken to the event pages to sign up and book your place.

We have also launched a survey, asking people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire about their experiences of bereavement support. Click here to access the survey.

December 3, 2020 at 10:00 am

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