Writing in the Redditch Standard, Rachel discusses Messages of Hope and changes needed to Public Health England’s suicide prevention guidance.

As this is my first diary of 2019, I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy New Year. I’m grateful for the gift of a New Year and new beginnings and I wish you all the very best for the year ahead.

Just before Christmas I met with mental health campaigner Katie Houghton. I’m sure many of you will recognise Katie’s name. She was the inspiration and organiser behind the Messages of Hope on Muskett’s Way Bridge last Summer.

I’m sure you also remember what happened to the Messages of Hope, but I don’t want to focus on the past, instead I want to focus on how we can move forward and make positive change following what happened.

What Katie made very clear in our meeting is that there is a gap in Public Health England’s suicide prevention guidance which local councils follow, including Worcestershire County Council.

Currently the guidance defines Katie’s Messages of Hope as floral tributes, which clearly they’re not. As a result, the advice is to remove these tributes after a period of time, which is what happened to the Messages of Hope.

However, across the country mental health campaigners and charities are working positively together with police and local councils on projects like the one Katie intended to run in Redditch. I still don’t understand why this hasn’t yet or why it can’t happen here in Worcestershire.

I believe something positive can still come from what happened to the Messages of Hope. Working together with Katie and Councillors Jo Beecham and Mike Rouse, I have written to the Suicide Prevention Minister calling for Public Health England’s guidance to be reviewed and for them to look again at how they define and treat Messages of Hope.

Katie is right on this. There is a gap in the guidance and I’m looking forward to working with her this year to effect some positive change.