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Suicide prevention drive launched setting out 100 ways to bring down rates within 2.5 years

The Government has launched a suicide prevention strategy, pledging more than 100 actions intended to bring down rates within two and a half years.

The strategy comes amid concern for children and young people as deaths and self-harm are on the rise. In 2022, there were 5,275 suicides in England, equating to 10.6 suicides per 100,000 people, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The initiatives include teaching suicide prevention in schools, better support for middle-aged men and a national alert system to highlight new methods of suicide.

The last prevention strategy was published more than a decade ago.

The Government has outlined ambitions to reduce suicide rates over the next five years, as well as improving support for people who have self-harmed and those bereaved by suicide.

“While overall the current suicide rate is not significantly higher than in 2012, the rate is not falling,” said a Government document published on Monday. “There is therefore much more we must all do to save more lives.”

It added: “We must do all we can to prevent more suicides, save many more lives and ultimately reduce suicide rates.”

What are the key initiatives?

  • A national alert system to highlight new methods of suicide to schools, universities and charities and give instruction on how to react and safeguard people who could be affected.
  • Medical experts to review whether reducing the number of paracetamol people can buy in shops could help bring down suicide rates.
  • The Department for Education (DfE) to examine whether suicide and self-harm prevention should be part of the school curriculum.
  • Half of schools in England to have mental health support teams in place by April 2025. The DfE will also offer all state schools and colleges funding to train a senior mental health lead by 2025.
  • More support for bespoke services to help middle-aged men, who are at a higher risk of suicide, including support and sport groups. Ministers are also encouraging construction and manufacturing businesses to take extra steps to support workers, saying these male-dominated industries could do more to help employees.
  • Ensuring pregnant women and new mothers get support at “every contact” with health professionals, who will be required to update a risk assessment at each appointment.
  • Crisis text lines to be rolled out in all areas of England.
  • A consultation on a potential tax for betting companies to fund “research, education and treatment of gambling harms”.
  • More support for bereaved families.

The document outlines how the national suicide rate has not fallen since 2018, with over 5,000 people taking their own lives in England each year.

It highlighted that the male rate is still “three times higher” and suicide and self-harm have “increased in young people” despite being low overall.

The Government said that “urgent attention” is required to reverse these harmful trends.

A number of “priority groups” have been identified for “tailored and targeted action”. This includes children and young people, middle-aged men, people who have self-harmed, pregnant women and new mothers, and autistic people.

People in contact with mental health services and the justice system will also receive targeted support.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “It’s imperative we support people earlier to prevent them reaching the lowest point, while tackling emerging methods of suicide, and eradicating harmful material online.

“We’re working at pace to achieve this, and we continue to invest billions of pounds to transform and improve our nation’s mental health services and, most importantly, save lives.”

Mental health minister Maria Caulfield said: “The impact of suicide on individuals and loved ones is devastating.

“This strategy will bolster the work this Government is already undertaking to reduce the number of suicides, and help us intervene where needed as early as possible.”

Mental health charities have welcomed the strategy but said it must be “fully funded” in order to be effective.

Samaritans chief executive Julie Bentley said: “It is great to see that the Government has responded to our calls for a new national suicide prevention strategy in England.

“However a plan without proper funding is like a car with no petrol – it may look great but it’s not going to get you where you need to be.

“At Samaritans we want to get to the point of achieving the lowest suicide rates ever recorded in this country but this takes both money and ambition.”

Dr Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the charity Mind, said: “Focusing on driving down suicide is welcome, and we look forward to hearing how the UK Government will fund the plans in this strategy.”

Andy Bell, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said: “The strategy must be fully funded, with sufficient resources for local councils to take action in their communities to prevent tragic losses of life.”

Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, also welcomed the strategy but said: “We must invest the bulk of our resources and energy into supporting people before they reach crisis point. Suicide is complex but preventable, and Government can have a significant impact if it works across its departments to tackle the root causes.”

He added that local authorities face resourcing challenges at the moment and called for more funding to help them reduce suicide at a local level.

Samaritans can be called on 116 123, or emailed at [email protected]

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