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Suicide prevention: Government initiative backed by £1.5 million for research

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The Government has launched a suicide prevention strategy, which is to focus on supporting bereaved families and preventing suicide among at-risk groups. It is backed by a ‘Call to Action’ led by the Samaritans and up to £1.5 million for new research.

The strategy, launched on September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, by care services minister Norman Lamb, is the first in more than 10 years and aims to reduce the suicide rate in England and better support those who have been bereaved or affected by suicide.

Middle-aged men are now the most likely group to commit suicide in England, the Government revealed. Men aged between 35 and 49 are now at higher risk of killing themselves than young men, previously the most at-risk group, according to government statistics. The reason for this turnaround is due to employment and financial worries brought about by the recession, it is thought. Men are three times more likely to take their own lives, the statistics show.

Lamb said: “One death to suicide is one too many – we want to make suicide prevention everyone’s business. Over the past 10 years there has been progress in reducing the suicide rate, but it is still the case that someone takes their own life every two hours in England.

Chair of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group, Professor Louis Appleby said: “Suicide does not have one cause – many factors combine to produce an individual tragedy. Prevention too must be broad – communities, families and front-line services all have a vital role.

Catherine Johnstone, Chair of the Call to Action Steering Group and Chief Executive of Samaritans, said: “Each and every suicide is a tragedy which has a devastating effect on families, friends, colleagues and the wider community. As a group we are encouraged that the Government has taken this step in continuing to acknowledge the importance of suicide prevention, by publishing the new strategy and by supporting the Call to Action.

Earlier research has shown that stigma associated with mental health problems can be a key aspect of people not going to their GP for help. That is why the Government is committed to supporting Time to Change, the national anti-stigma campaign for people of all ages and backgrounds.

The Government has identified six key areas for action:

1 A better understanding of why people take their own life and how it can be prevented – supported by new suicide prevention research funding.

2 Working with the media, and with the internet industry through members of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) to help parents ensure their children are not accessing harmful suicide-related websites, and to increase the availability and take-up of effective parental controls to reduce access to harmful websites.

3 Reducing opportunities for suicide, by making sure prisons and mental health facilities keep people safer – for example by redesigning buildings to take away ligature – and by safer prescribing of potentially lethal drugs.

4 Better support for high-risk groups – such as those with mental health problems and people who self-harm – by making sure the health service effectively manages the mental health aspects as well as any physical injuries when people who have self-harmed present themselves.

5 Improving services for groups like children and young people or ensuring the mental health needs of those with long-term conditions are being met through the Government’s mental health strategy.

6 Providing better information and support to those bereaved or affected by suicide – making sure families are included in the recovery and treatment of a patient and giving support to families affected by suicide.