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Guest contributor: Support shouldn’t depend on a person’s postcode

Having recently completed a near 300-mile run to Downing Street to petition the Government to make suicide prevention a key chapter in its ‘levelling-up’ agenda, Matthew Smith, co-founder of If U Care Share Foundation, tells North East Times Magazine why his feats – which raised more than £30,000 for the charity – must act as a starting gun for Downing Street to provide more help to people in the North East.

Words by Matthew Smith, Co-founder of If U Care Share Foundation


It may not surprise you that running from Chester-le-Street to Downing Street is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

It seemed like a good idea when we started organising the 289-mile trek – a year after snapping my achilles playing local league football – with the intention of raising awareness of  mental health and suicide prevention provision in the region, and funds for If U Care Share Foundation.

And then we read that the word suicide wasn’t even included in the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ white paper.

Suicide is the biggest killer of young men across the North East, North West and Scotland.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the North East had the highest suicide rate (13.3 per 100,000) in 2020 – an increase of 15.7 per cent compared to the previous year.

Sadly, this has now been the case for our region in five out of the last ten years.

And so we drew up a letter, which I signed on behalf of If U Care Share Foundation, alongside  Samaritans, Beyond, Chasing the Stigma, PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, James’ Place, Harmless, CALM, Rose Paterson Trust and the CSJ Foundation.

It was during this period that Boris Johnson was ousted and, as we left Chester-le-Street in late August, we had no idea whether his replacement would be Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak. We added Truss’ name as we concluded the run.

Given her busy schedule, it wasn’t possible to hand the letter in at Number Ten, but, thanks to North Durham MP Kevan Jones, we were able to meet Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Towards the end of October, Kevan personally delivered the letter to new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and he is hopeful of a positive response soon.

Below are some excerpts from the letter.

‘At present, there is no mention of suicide prevention in either the ‘levelling-up’ bill or white paper.

‘We urge you to ensure it is integrated into the agenda.

‘Policy intervention to prevent more deaths by suicide must be prioritised, particularly in the poorest areas; the adequacy and level of support should not depend on someone’s postcode’.

If U Care Share Foundation was established 16 years ago, when my brother Daniel took his own life, to support those bereaved by, or at risk of, suicide, and preventing any family from experiencing what we went through.

Since then, the charity has provided support to those who have lost loved ones, as well as help and advice to those who are at risk of taking their own life.

And to help us make more progress, we hope the Government will take notice and prioritise suicide prevention in the ‘levelling-up’ agenda.