West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership has set itself the ambitious target of recruiting 500 more Suicide Prevention Champions throughout 2024 – after smashing its initial target at the end of last year.Image shows Richard James holding a piece of paper with Suicide Prevention Champion logo on, towards the camera..jpg

This year’s aim equates to two Champions for each of the 250 suicide deaths registered in West Yorkshire in 2022, according to the latest statistics.

It comes after the Partnership’s initial target of reaching 281 – one for every suicide death registered the previous year, in 2021 – by the end of 2023 was surpassed with two weeks to spare, as momentum gathered and people across West Yorkshire joined the cause.

The campaign encourages people to sign up to become a Suicide Prevention Champion - to challenge the stigma of suicide and learn what they can do to help prevent it.

Champions can access all the latest suicide prevention news, resources, support services and information to help spread the word and encourage suicide prevention action at home, in their communities, workplaces and online, to help create a world where fewer people die by suicide.

The Champions’ count currently stands at 351, with 42 of those signing up since January 1 – leaving another 458 still to recruit before the end of the year.

Becoming a Suicide Prevention Champion takes minutes, signing up via an online form, and involves watching a 20-minute suicide awareness video, by the Zero Suicide Alliance, and making a pledge – big or small – for a suicide prevention action.

The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show West Yorkshire’s suicide rate continues to be higher than the national average – with a three-year rate of 12.5 registered suicide deaths per 100,000 people in 2020-2022, compared to a rate of 10.3 for England.

Each area in West Yorkshire also has above-average rates, of 10.4 in Bradford, 11.9 in Kirklees, 16.7 in Calderdale, 11.9 in Leeds and 15.8 in Wakefield.

Richard James (pictured, above, right), suicide prevention lead for West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, said: “We’re truly humbled and amazed by the support so far from people across West Yorkshire.

“There is a clear desire to reduce suicide and bring the rates down across the area.

“We hope 2024 will see more and more people get behind this vital campaign and it would be incredible to sign up another 500 people by the end of this year.

“Every suicide death is a tragedy and our rates are too high in West Yorkshire. But suicide deaths are preventable deaths and we need everyone’s help to bring the rates down.”

Kirklees Councillor Jackie Ramsay, cabinet member for Health and Social Care at Kirklees Council, signed up as a Suicide Prevention Champion last year.Councillor Jackie Ramsay talking to the camera as a screenshot from her video.png.png

She said: “It would be fantastic if we had thousands of Suicide Prevention Champions in our communities.

"We might never need the skills but if we spread the word and get as many people to sign up as possible, I know someone will save a life."

Visit the 'Suicide Prevention Champions’ stories and pledges’ section of the West Yorkshire Suicide Prevention website to view Jackie’s message in full, along with experiences of other Champions from across West Yorkshire.

To find out more and sign up as a Champion, visit www.suicidepreventionwestyorkshire.co.uk/becomachampion.