Can minister reduce suicides?

The government has appointed a minister for suicide prevention

South Wales Argus

Suicide prevention 'is everyone's business'

PREVENTING suicide among young people "is everybody's business", a Gwent AM has said at a national conference discussing how to make schools and colleges safer and more open places.

Lynne Neagle was among speakers at the conference in London last week organised by suicide prevention charity Papyrus.

In her speech the Torfaen AM spoke about the importance of encouraging people - particularly young people and those working with them, such as teachers - to speak openly about suicide.

"Suicide prevention is everybody’s business and everybody’s opportunity," she said.

"I regularly get asked whether our teachers don’t already have enough to do.

"I know that teachers are under huge pressure and that workload is a major issue.

"But I have also spoken to many school staff who would welcome training in this area, who would feel empowered by it and whose mental health would also be helped by knowing how best to help young people.

"I have spoken to teachers who have told me that they are afraid to leave to go home at night because they are the last line of defence for a young person who is self-harming and they don’t know what to do.

"And we can never underestimate the impact on school staff of losing a pupil to suicide.

"The bottom line here is that four school children die by suicide every week in the UK - 200 schoolchildren a year. That is a national scandal."

The Labour AM is also chairwoman of the Welsh Assembly's Children, Young People and Education Committee and has spoken previously of the importance of raising awareness of what may lead young people to kill themselves.

Continuing, Ms Neagle said: "The death of a young person by suicide is devastating - for their family, for their school and for the whole community.

"It is also estimated that every suicide costs the public purse £1.6 million per suicide.

"To those who say that we can’t afford to invest more in this work in schools, I say to you that we can’t afford not to."

Support with suicidal thoughts is available 24 hours a day from the Samaritans via 116 123.

All schools in Wales also offer counselling for children while GPs are also able to refer to services.

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Can minister reduce suicides?

By Jim Scott

It has been reported that more than 4,500 people in Britain take their own lives every year in successful suicide attempts and as a result, the UK’s will become the world’s first country to instate a suicide minister. The minister will oversee national suicide rates and develop a strategy with health services to significantly reduce suicides. Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement on Wednesday, October 10th that former Health Minister, Jackie Doyle-Price would partake in the role.

Previously regarded the UK’s suicide capital, suicide rates have fallen in Blackpool. In September 2018, figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed the suicide rate had in fact dropped over the last three years.

Elsewhere in the North West of England, St Helens, Merseyside was rated the highest for suicides across England and Wales. According to a report, there were 29 suicides between 2016 and 2017.

But suicide awareness charity, Samaritans said "one suicide by death is still too many". Chief executive, Ruth Sutherland said suicide was not "inevitable" and should be treated as something entirely "preventable".

She said: "It’s encouraging to see the reduction in male suicide. We believe that the focus of suicide prevention in recent years to tackle the higher rates in men has contributed to this.

"Added to this, reducing stigma around men’s mental health and encouraging men to open up and ask for help when they are struggling has been beneficial. But one death by suicide is still one too many."

"The suicide rate in females has remained stable over the last decade. It’s encouraging of course that there hasn’t been an increase over this time, but we believe more can be also be done to understand why women take their own lives and what works in terms of prevention."

Meanwhile, the introduction of a suicide minister cannot come soon enough, as the Guardian reports. It claims one in three freshers show symptoms of a mental health disorder and there are growing concerns from universities for students’ welfare. Often blamed on the amount of pressure students can often feel when handing in work or failing to complete certain tasks on time, Sky News reports "thousands of students have backed extra suicide prevention measures".

In Bristol, a first-year student joined nine other people who suffered death by suicide at Bristol University over 18 months. 19-year-old, Ben Murray, took his own life after he had fell behind in studies. His father, James believed Ben had "stored up angst and stress" for several months which the institution ‘failed’ to realise, reports the Guardian.

It has also been called that universities should "end grading systems to end pressure of students" and ultimately suicide. It is claimed that universities "expect" students to achieve at least a Second-Class: Upper Division degree and above whilst driving up anxiety levels and prevents confidence amongst students.

Dr Nicola Byrom, a psychologist at King’s College London, said: "The way our UK grading system at universities is structured does potentially create stress.

"Most people get a 2.1, therefore getting a 2.2 is seen by the majority of students as absolutely terrible and yet that’s a fantastic achievement for many students."

Once the health minister has settled into her new role, it is expected she will lead efforts to confront suicide, introducing a ministerial taskforce according to CNN. The taskforce will then work with charities, health services and those individuals and families affected by suicide.

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Mind welcome the appointment of a new Minister for Suicide Prevention

We welcome the appointment of a new Minister for Suicide Prevention. We lose almost 4,500 people in England a year to suicide and, although not all are mental health related, many are, and every one is a tragedy. By introducing this role, the Government appears to be upholding its commitment to transform our over-stretched mental health services, as a key part of the picture is making sure services can prevent people with mental health problems reaching crisis point. The new minister will need do all they can to make sure people at risk of suicide are able to access the services they need, when they need them, which includes marked improvements to patient safety, both during and after a hospital stay. We’re soon expecting a new long term plan for the NHS, which will set out how services will improve over the coming years.

But it’s not just about mental health services, because the reasons for suicide are many and complicated. Life can be challenging and living with a mental health problem can make the ups and downs of day-to-day life that much harder to manage. Mind found that half of people with mental health problems have thought about or attempted suicide as a result of social issues such as housing issues, finances, benefit support, and employment. We need a benefits system that doesn't drive people into poverty, support for employers to make sure they are looking after their workforces, access to housing that is fit for people to live in comfortably, and health and social care services that prevent people becoming unwell in the first place. It’s paramount that the government takes these issues into account and makes sure people get the right support to deal with difficult circumstances in life, reducing the chance of people of taking their own lives.

Having a minister who can work across government departments is crucial in tackling the complicated issue of suicide. For the minister to really bring about positive change, any work by the minister and her taskforce must be done hand-in-hand with people who have direct experience of suicide.

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