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

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

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

IMHN are running six focus groups in December that each look at a different element of the NHS’ Community Mental Health Framework. These focus groups will help directly shape what the roll-out of the Framework looks like in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire areas.

This will be your opportunity to discuss what matters most to you around the elements listed above, to help health commissioners ensure that the new services meet people’s needs.

People who attend a focus group will receive a £25 voucher as a thank you for their contributions and time.

We expect there to be a high level of interest for these events, and we want to ensure that everyone can have their say. Please make sure that you book your space as soon as possible!

More about the Community Mental Health Framework

The Framework was first published in September 2019, following publication of the NHS’ Long Term Plan and the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. The framework intends to deliver person-centred mental health care in the community, and address the needs of people that have previously struggled to access effective support (for example, people who’s needs cannot be met by primary care services, but are not deemed severe enough to access secondary mental health care).

November 29, 2020 at 4:27 pm

Give us the benefit of your experience

Get involved with the South Gloucestershire Wellbeing Network.

Be part of establishing a vocal and influential group that will speak out about mental health support in South Gloucestershire.

Join our mailing list today to receive updates about the network.

The network is a working collaboration between Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership, The Independent Mental Health Network and South Gloucestershire Council to provide a platform for people with lived experience of mental ill health. The group will discuss experiences of local mental health support, and work to influence services provided in the South Gloucestershire area.

The network currently meets on the first and third Thursday of the month between 10:00 – 11:00am. Click here to receive join details for upcoming meetings sent to you by email.

The poster for the network can be seen below.

This is the poster used to promote the South Gloucestershire Wellbeing Network. The text on the poster is: The South Gloucestershire Wellbeing Network is a working collaboration between Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership, The Independent Mental Health Network and South Gloucestershire Council to provide a platform for people with lived experience of mental ill health. The platform is a means to share experiences of mental health services, provide peer support and a chance to influence services provided in your area. Join us Via Zoom online conferencing on: 1st and 3rd Thursday of the Month 10am-11am. Click or enter the link into your web browser: Meeting ID: 337 688 9881 For further information about the Wellbeing Network, and how to join please contact: Nisba Ahmed on 01454 868274 or email: Tom Renhard on 07515 941233 or email: Nicola Burchill on 07703 382159 or email:

August 27, 2020 at 11:10 am

There are three branches of the Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN) in the South West. These are the BIMHN in Bristol; Clarity-NSIMHN in North Somerset; and South Gloucestershire IMHN.

Branches and members of branches support local projects improving mental healthcare and support in their respective areas, as well as working together on projects that take place across the combined BNSSG (Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire) area. This post contains some more information about some opportunities that we are looking for people to put themselves forward for.

If you would like to apply for any of the roles listed below, click here to complete the application form. When completing the form, please select the role you are interested in on the third question. If, for any reason, you are unable to complete the online application form, please get in touch by emailing engagement[at]

1. Represent BIMHN on the Bristol Women’s Commission Health Task Group

The Bristol Women’s Commission Health Task Group meets quarterly, and meetings currently focus on the impact of COVID-19 on women’s health.

BIMHN has a place reserved at these meetings for one of our members to attend and represent the network. If you identify as a woman, live in Bristol, and are a member of BIMHN; we would like to invite you to put yourself forward as our rep for this meeting.

Meetings of the Task Group will last for two hours. If you have any other questions, please get in touch by sending an email to the email address above.

2. Join the BNSSG COVID-19 Lived Experience Steering Group

IMHN’s branches in the South West are continuing to support the work of the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) Mental Health and Wellbeing Cell. The Cell is part of a wider structure in the South West that is co-ordinating the health and care system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the group formed, it has helped shape the branding of the new 24/7 mental health telephone support line; and is currently reviewing and inputting into proposals about how the local mental health system will respond to the anticipated surge in the number of people experiencing mental health problems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you live in either the Bristol, North Somerset, or South Gloucestershire areas; and have lived experience of mental health, we are inviting you to apply to join the steering group. Click here for more information and details of how to apply.

3. Apply to be a lived experience representative trauma-informed practice subgroup

As mentioned above, IMHN are supporting the work of the BNSSG Mental Health and Wellbeing Cell. This includes supporting lived experience representatives to attend subgroups of the Cell; subgroups are dedicated to a particular aspect of the mental health system.

We are seeking an additional representative to attend fortnightly meetings of the trauma-informed practice subgroup. This group focuses on developing services that will take a trauma-informed approach in how they work with people accessing these services. The group will also be about building the case for culture change, and the development of a knowledge and skills framework for trauma-informed practice going forward.

August 16, 2020 at 7:56 pm

A new immediate emotional and practical support helpline

An NHS, free, confidential 24/7 helpline has launched, provided by Vita Health Group, in partnership with Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

The service is called 24/7 Support & Connect. This line is staffed by experienced counsellors, who you can talk to and they will listen. They will offer emotional support and can connect you to organisations available in Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG).

The helpline is for people aged 18 and over who are living within BNSSG or are registered with a GP within BNSSG.

For immediate emotional and practical support call 0800 012 6549.

(textphone users dial 18001 followed by 0800 0126549)

If English isn’t your first language we can arrange for a translator to support your call.

If you are 17 or under please call the Children and Young People’s helpline via AWP’s Single Point of Access phoneline on 0300 303 1320.

For more information, please click here to visit the Vita Health Group website.

August 12, 2020 at 9:56 am

In recent months, local mental health organisations and service providers have come together from across the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) area to form the BNSSG Mental Health & Wellbeing Cell. This Cell is part of a wider structure in the South West that is co-ordinating the health and social care response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN) and its branches in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, are supporting the Cell’s work, by facilitating a Lived Experience Steering Group. This group scrutinises the work of the Mental Health & Wellbeing Cell, in order to ensure that people with lived experience of both mental health and accessing mental health services are able to help shape what the Cell is doing.

We are looking for people with lived experience of mental health and accessing mental health services; who live in either the Bristol, North Somerset or South Gloucestershire areas; to join this steering group as representatives.

Representatives will attend fortnightly steering group meetings (that may move to monthly frequency in the future). The steering group will comment on, evaluate, and feedback into various pieces of work being undertaken by the wider Cell. A participation payment of £25 per two-hour meeting will be paid to representatives.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please click here to fill out a form to express your interest. 

At the third question, please select ‘Bristol North Somerset & South Gloucestershire – COVID-19 Lived Experience Steering Group.’

We are particularly interested in receiving applications from LGBTQ+; or Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

If you have any questions, please email engagement[at], and a member of the team will get back to you.

July 20, 2020 at 10:35 pm

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