“Hope saved my life”: How the Hope project helped men at risk of suicide
Press release issued: 14 July 2022
A project to help men aged 30-64 who are at risk of suicide has saved lives and reduced depression and suicidal thoughts, a study by National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) funded researchers at the University of Bristol has shown. Hope, run by mental health charity Second Step, aims to help men in mental health crisis because of debt, financial, employment or welfare difficulties.
Rates of death from suicide are higher in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) area than other parts of England. The five year average suicide rate in men aged 35 to 64 is 25.9 per 100,000 in Bristol, compared to 19.7 per 100,000 across England.
ONS data shows that around three-quarters of all suicides are among men, with the highest rates occurring in middle age, so Hope is aimed at this group. It was piloted in 2016 and in 2018 it was rolled out across the BNSSG area.
Hope addresses the distress created by debt, financial, employment or welfare difficulties. It takes mental health and social circumstances into account and doesn’t just focus on one aspect of a man’s life.
Researchers from the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West (NIHR ARC West) used questionnaires to compare how men felt before and after being in the Hope project for six months. The questionnaires focused on depression, suicidal thoughts and whether the men felt in control of their finances. They also interviewed the men using Hope and the staff delivering it.
Eighty men completed the questionnaire after six months, compared to 105 who completed the first questionnaire. There was around a 50% reduction in both depression and suicidal thoughts after six months of being in the Hope project, compared to when the men first started with Hope. They felt 26% more in control of their finances.
Researchers also interviewed 16 men to understand whether Hope was acceptable to them and the impact it had. The interviews showed how 'Hope saved my life' for several of the men. Most men described being able to move forward and tackle challenges with more confidence.
Interviews also demonstrated how Hope helped men deal with the multiple problems they faced:
"When I first met up with (Hope project worker) I was determined that life was at the end and I was fed-up and she turned it around. Like I couldn’t get a bank account and she got me a bank account… I blow everything up into a really big problem and she cut it down into digestible chunks… helped me through all of it. It’s been great."
This Hope client was supported with their housing, welfare benefits and debt issues, alongside ongoing addiction and mental health problems.
Both men and staff said Hope created a space where men felt comfortable and were able to express themselves, free from the social norms and pressures associated with masculinity.
This research shows Hope offers practical and emotional support to men who have experienced suicidal feelings, redundancy, homelessness and poverty.
Hope occupies an important space between mental health and social care, cutting across the boundaries between psychiatric care and social advice agencies. The research demonstrates the value of providing an integrated service.
The findings are being submitted to the UK Government’s call for evidence to inform their mental health and wellbeing plan.
Joni Jackson, Research Associate at the University of Bristol and ARC West, said: "Hope is clearly a lifeline for many of the men who participated in it. It’s shown real benefits for those men who engaged with it. Our study demonstrates how a more integrated approach can really help people at very difficult times in their lives."
Aileen Edwards, Chief Executive of Second Step, added: "It's fantastic to lead an organisation that has delivered such an innovative and trailblazing suicide prevention project. Hope has saved hundreds of men’s lives in Bristol and beyond.
"This much-anticipated evaluation proves that our approach is the right one and ensures that our mix of emotional and practical support can be replicated across the country."
Christian, a former Hope client who now works for Second Step as a Recovery Coach, explained: "It was only a few years ago now that I was convinced that there was no way back for me really. That's how bad I felt. Hope let me see a way forward and that things could change and improve. I feel like a different person to how I was then. I am excited and positive looking to my future."
'Preventing male suicide through a psychosocial intervention that provides psychological support and tackles financial difficulties: a mixed method evaluation' by Joni Jackson et al in BMC Psychiatry [open access]
'Providing men at risk of suicide with emotional support and advice with employment, housing and financial difficulties: A qualitative evaluation of the Hope service' by Michelle Farr et al in the Journal of Mental Health
In the UK in 2019, 6,524 people took their own lives. Men aged 45-49 and women aged 50-54 have the highest suicide rates in England and Wales. For the latest data broken down by age and local authority, visit https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2020registrations#suicide-patterns-by-age
About the National Institute for Health and Care Research
The mission of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:
- Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
- Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
- Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
- Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
- Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
- Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries.
NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.
About the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West
The NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West (ARC West) conducts applied health research with its partners and others in the health and care sector, alongside patients and members of the public. Applied health research aims to address the immediate issues facing the health and social care system. ARC West also helps bring research evidence into practice and provides training for the local workforce.
About Second Step
- Second Step is a leading mental health organisation in the South West. We believe that with the right support, everyone can take control of their life and make their future their own.
- Working hand-in-hand with the NHS and local authorities, we offer practical help and emotional support tailored to each individual and their recovery.
- The people who use our services, our clients, are at the heart of what we do, and our involvement groups help inform and improve the services we deliver.
- The Hope Project is a unique evidence-based project providing a short-term emotional and practical support to middle-aged men in crisis and at risk of suicide.
- Twitter and Instagram @wearesecondstep