As Covid cases rise and the pandemic continues to increase demand for mental health services across the country, the Zero Suicide Alliance calls for determined action.


ZSA’s new Step Up module – developed and released in time for World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September 2020) - is designed to give people the skills required to identify and proactively reach out to someone whose mental health may be suffering.

ZSA has backed this call with a national roll out of its free online Step Up training module which focuses on supporting people who may be encountering mental health issues as the pandemic plays out. The move comes as the UK records a 'concerning' rise in coronavirus cases with 3,000 new infections being confirmed this week – the highest daily rise since May.

Founder member of the Alliance, Dr Joe Rafferty, explains: “The pandemic has placed a great strain on mental health services. The Royal College of Psychiatrists have said that their members are seeing an alarming rise in patients needing urgent and emergency care and they forecast the arrival of what they call  a 'tsunami' of mental illness.

“And recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that worryingly, male suicides in England and Wales are now at their highest rate in two decades. The same report highlights that suicide rates for women are also high - the highest since 2004 - with a significant rise among females aged 10 to 24. I find these figures shocking. Not just because every single death by suicide is a catastrophe that devastates families, friends, colleagues and communities but because these figures graphically demonstrate that suicide prevention is an issue for all of us – it’s everyone’s business.

As Dr. Rafferty points out “suicide has been wisely described as a permanent solution to a temporary problem and we all have a role in its prevention. Together we can make a real difference and end the silence”.

 “Over 1.3 million people have already accessed our original award winning ZSA suicide awareness training and we hope that many more will now benefit and be better equipped to help save a life with the addition of our Covid specific Step Up training package” says Dr Rafferty.  

The Alliance will be supporting this activity with a month long ZSA Big Brew campaign running 10 September – 10 October 2020. We hope this will encourage people to talk about their mental health as a healthy part of life and not just on designated awareness days. The ZSA Big Brew encourages people to get in touch – virtually or over a socially distanced beverage) - with a friend, colleague or relative and take time to ask how the other person is doing, share thoughts , feelings, concerns and let them know that they are not alone. The month long campaign, which ends on World Mental Health Day, is full of self care activities to help support yourself, friends and colleagues during a time when the stress and worry of the coronavirus is bound to have impacted people’s mental health.

ZSA Step Up training is free and available on the ZSA Training page