Volunteer suicide response car service saves 29 lives

PUBLISHED: 17:01 09 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:01 09 October 2018

The Walnut Tree Health and Wellbeing’s Community Response Team vehicle. Photo: The Walnut Tree.

The Walnut Tree Health and Wellbeing’s Community Response Team vehicle. Photo: The Walnut Tree.


A ground-breaking response car service which provides support to people in the midst of a mental health crisis has saved 29 lives in just two years.

Walnut Tree Project CEO Luke Woodley. PHOTO: Walnut Tree ProjectWalnut Tree Project CEO Luke Woodley. PHOTO: Walnut Tree Project

The Walnut Tree Health and Wellbeing’s Community Response Team has proved a valuable tool to support suicide prevention across Norfolk and Waveney.

The project was initially launched in 2016 as the Veterans Response Partnership to provide specialist mental health support to military veterans in crisis.

Due to its success it was subsequently relaunched to help all those who use The Walnut Tree’s services.

Chief Executive Luke Woodley said: “The service came about because we found there was inadequate support from mainstream organisations out of hours.

“When the service was founded it was predominately for veterans but it became apparent such a service was long overdue and it seemed unfair to keep to a small number of people.”

The response team currently boasts four specially equipped vehicles and has been called out 546 times.

Mr Woodley said: “At times when someone is in so much turmoil and crisis they throw a lifeline back to humanity – sometimes we are there to catch it.

“No one who is suicidal truly wants to die. When they are in real distress they want someone who is trained to take control of the situation.

“The average call-out time is three-and-a-half hours - mainly spent at people’s homes looking after them.

“We train people to manage with their own crises; it’s about dealing with the future as well. “

Each vehicle is manned by two volunteers with advanced first aid, mental health first aid and specialist equipment to help reach at risk patients in rural areas.

Mr Woodley also spoke of how far the service had come and the potential for future expansion.

He said: “When we first came up with the idea most people said it couldn’t be done.

“But to see it grow, mature and develop and become much more than we ever planned is proof of how needed this service is.

“We would love to open it up to everyone but it’s a matter of funding.

“It’s a pretty unique service. I would love to see it grow and would love to talk to public health and funding it properly.”

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