Former Labour MP Luciana Berger opens up about the tragic deaths of four of her close friends to suicide

Berger told guests at JAMH dinner:‘I’ve lost four people to suicide’ and mental health ‘stigma and discrimination’ is still a problem


Luciana Berger (left) is interviewed by Dr Sandi Mann, chair of JAMH (Photo: Jonny Wineberg)

Former Labour MP Luciana Berger has opened up about the tragic deaths of four of her close friends to suicide.

In a interview with Jewish Action for Mental Health (JAMH) chair Dr Sandi Mann as part of an intimate charity dinner in Manchester, Berger said: “I’ve lost four people to suicide, and there’s still this issue of stigma and discrimination when it comes to mental health.”

The dinner was also attended by former MP Ivan Lewis, who highlighted the work that JAMH has done to create a system of preventative measures in response to a series of teenage suicides in the Greater Manchester Jewish community.

Berger, who leads Labour’s mental health strategy review, told guests her passion for preventative treatments of mental health problems was integral to her work.

She said: “Everyone in this room will be affected by their own mental health or someone around them, and a report just out in the last week from the Mental Health Foundation shows that it’s costing our country £300 billion a year.”

She added: “There's so much more we can and should be doing in our communities, in our workplaces and places of education to keep people well that we're not doing at the moment.”

She told guests Labour had already committed to “increase the mental health workforce in this country by 8,500, to introduce mental health hubs in every single community and to provide additional mental health support in every secondary school in this country.”

Talking about her own struggles, the former MP said the war in Israel had impacted her in a way she “never could have imagined” as she struggled to work for several weeks following the devastating events.

She said she “had to come off social media completely for an extended period of time” following October 7.

Lewis praised his former colleague for her resilience during her time in the Labour party and her exit following the findings of the Human Rights Commission that Labour was guilty of “harassing and intimidating its Jewish members”.

“The Labour party left me, I didn't leave the Labour party,” she said in reference to that period.

She added: “The party in my mind has returned to the party that I knew and joined – it has rooted out people that were so horrific and are no longer members of the party.”

JAMH was founded in 2019 and has provided professional counselling to over 750 people in the Manchester Jewish community and its heads appealed to guests to support its work so it could increase provisions.

One dinner guest, counsellor Ruth Benson said: “It was really wonderful hearing about the work JAMH is doing. Luciana was a lively and interesting speaker. [We enjoyed] great company, super food and all in a good cause."

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