Prime minister Theresa May has appointed the world’s first minister for suicide prevention – to try and reduce the number of Britons taking their own lives.
May announced that Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price is to lead the national effort and try to end the stigma which stops people from seeking help, as she marks World Mental Health Day today. About 4,500 people take their lives every year in England and suicide remains the leading cause of death among men under the age of 45. The PM has also pledged up to £1.8 million to ensure the Samaritans’ helpline remains free for the next four years, to help those most in need.
Labour said a focus on suicide prevention was ‘long overdue’ and warned a lack of funding had forced people to wait months for treatment in some areas. Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said the announcement is a ‘step forward that must now be matched by proper funding and more ambitious delivery’. Speaking at a reception to mark World Mental Health Day, Mrs May is expected to say: ‘We can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence. We can prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives. ‘And we can give the mental well-being of our children the priority it so profoundly deserves.’
She will also say that ‘parity of care’ is a priority of the NHS long-term plan, which will include ‘record investment’ in mental health. Ms Doyle-Price, now minister for mental health, inequalities and suicide prevention, will ensure every local area has effective plans in place to stop unnecessary deaths and investigate how technology can help identify those most at risk. She said: ‘In my time as health minister I have met many people who have been bereaved by suicide and their stories of pain and loss will stay with me for a long time. ‘It’s these people who need to be at the heart of what we do and I welcome this opportunity to work closely with them, as well as experts, to oversee a cross-government suicide prevention plan, making their sure their views are always heard.’
Health secretary Matt Hancock, who was previously the minister for Portsmouth in 2014, said the suicide rate is at its lowest for seven years – but each is a tragic but ‘preventable’ death.
‘We need to do more to challenge the stigma that people with mental ill-health face and make sure they feel they can reach out for help,’ he said. As well as the new ministerial position, the government announced new mental health support teams will work with schools to ensure young people get the help they need. Meanwhile, a new report will be published into the state of young people’s mental health every year on World Mental Health Day. The second day of the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit takes place in London today.