MORE support is needed for mental health provisions in the North East, campaigners have said, after the tragic toll of suicides was revealed.

Shocking new figures show 231 people have lost their lives to suicide in County Durham and Darlington over a two-year period while more children in Darlington are unhappy with their mental health than almost anywhere else in England.

Up to 490 children aged between nine and 17 in the town responded to a question on their mental health – with 24 per cent saying they were unhappy with it - one of the highest rates in the country.

Meanwhile, 11 per cent of kids in Darlington said they were unhappy with their physical health, 5 per cent with their friendships, and 10 per cent with their life overall.

Read more: Suicide survivor's message of hope, five years after trying to end her life

The findings are from the Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza who polled more than half a million school pupils across the country for her Big Ask survey between April and May.

In County Durham, 19 per cent of 3,456 children said they were unhappy with their mental health, 10 per cent said they were unhappy with their physical health, and five per cent with their friendships, and eight per cent with their life overall.

The 196 people in County Durham and 35 in Darlington to have died from suicide between 2018-20 have prompted charities to call on the Government to bolster prevention services for young people through funding and a better education system.

Although the figure decreased in Darlington from the previous two years, the number of deaths in both areas is higher than the national average.

It comes as organisations get together to raise awareness for World Suicide Prevention Day, held on Sunday.

The Northern Echo: If U Care Share foundation founder, Matthew SmithIf U Care Share foundation founder, Matthew Smith

Read more: Tragedy of teenager whose death inspired fundraising campaign

'We are being let down by those in power'

Matthew Smith set up the County Durham-based If U Care Share charity alongside mum Shirley in the wake of his brother Daniel O’Hare’s tragic suicide in 2005.

He has campaigned for years for improved support and continues to call on the Government to act.

“It’s very easy for those in power to see we need to tackle it but unless we are doing something then we’re not tackling it,” he said .

“It’s great saying these things but that doesn’t help the people that are struggling. For an organisation ourselves who are on the ground, we are quite often filling the gap for where the system is letting people down.”

The If U Care Share foundation experienced a 300 per cent increase in calls during the first lockdown - and are still dealing with higher levels than before the coronavirus pandemic.

He added: “In the North East, we are being let down by those in power.

“It’s been a tough time but a positive from it is that we’ve been there for people who might not have had anybody there for them.

The Northern Echo: Daniel O’Hare took his life at 19Daniel O’Hare took his life at 19

“My brother was someone who took his own life because he didn’t feel he could reach out to his own family and friends and unfortunately we see that happening so many times.

“We need to do more to allow people to feel they are able to ask for help. It’s easy to say we need to talk more, which is true, but we need to listen.”

Read more: Grandmother's heartbreak at railway death of boy who 'missed his mam'

'It’s ok to talk and there is help'

A youth worker, who wants to remain anonymous, has united the Pelton Fell community after the death of 17-year-old Jamie McKitten in March.

Through her work with the JMAC Foundation she set up a Facebook page to share advice and inspirational quotes which she says has already had a positive impact on local teenagers.

“A lot of young people were affected by Jamie’s death,” she said. “JMAC is to raise awareness and let them know there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I battle demons every day, and it’s hard, but there’s people out there who are willing to listen.

“The kids often say they don’t want to talk and I am encouraging them that it’s ok to talk and that there is help.”

The youth worker has used the Brockwell community centre as a youth hub and says she has made a change to at least seven teenager’s lives by helping them so far.

“If I can help one person that’s my job done,” she added. “Anybody who wants to support us, please do.”

The Northern Echo: Floral tributes were left following the sad death of Jamie McKittenFloral tributes were left following the sad death of Jamie McKitten

The Government said it has pledged to invest £57 million by 2023-24 to support local suicide prevention plans and establish suicide bereavement services.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said its mental health recovery action plan targets reducing suicide and supporting people’s mental wellbeing.

Contact Samaritans for free at any time on 116 123, or visit

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054