POLITICS
09/10/2018 22:30 BST | Updated 10/10/2018 09:25 BST

First Ever Minister For Suicide Prevention Appointed As 'Too Many Suffer In Silence'

It follows in-depth reporting by HuffPost UK on the rising level of suicides among university students.

A dedicated minister for suicide prevention will be appointed as part of a landmark effort by the Prime Minister to tackle the UK’s mental health crisis. 

Theresa May will announce an annual ‘state of the nation’ report on young people’s mental health and reveal Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price as the first-ever suicide prevention minister.

To mark World Mental Health Day on Wednesday, she will also pledge a return to her fight to tackle “burning injustices” and hand the Samaritans £1.8m to remain a free 24-hour service for four years. 

Doyle-Price will lead a taskforce of national and local government, self-harm charities, clinicians and those personally affected by suicide to drive forward a mental health strategy. 

She will also ensure every local area has a suicide prevention plan in place, and look at how technology can be used to identify those most at risk.

Rob Stothard via Getty Images
Jackie Doyle-Price will be the first-ever minister for suicide prevention

The PM will place particular focus on the mental health of young people.

Around 4,500 people take their own lives each year in England and suicide remains the leading cause of death for men under 45, but most mental ill health can be identified by the age of 14. 

The Government will also announce:

  • New mental health support teams to work in schools, with trainees to begin studying in January and join schools across England next year;

  • The ‘state of the nation’ will be published on World Mental Health Day each year and highlight trends and track issues in young people’s mental well-being 

  • New tools to help schools measure students’ health, including their mental wellbeing

It comes after HuffPost UK produced in-depth reporting on Bristol University, where there were ten suspected suicides in the space of 18 months. 

 

l-r Bristol University students Natasha Abrahart Miranda Williams Lara Nosiru James Thomson Kim Long and Alex Elsmore were all found dead
Bristol University students Natasha Abrahart Miranda Williams Lara Nosiru James Thomson, Kim Long and Alex Elsmore were all suspected to have taken their own life. 

Speaking at a Downing Street reception, May will say: “When I first became Prime Minister, I stood on the steps of Downing Street and pledged to fight the burning injustices in our society.

“There are few greater examples than the injustices facing those with mental health conditions. But together we can change that.

“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 wellbeing of our children the priority it so profoundly deserves.”

The PM will also announce the campaign to train a million people in mental health awareness – Every Mind Matters – launches today, with a pilot in the West Midlands ahead of a national rollout next spring.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock is hosting the first ever Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit in London, attended by ministers and representatives from over 50 countries as well as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. 

Countries at the summit are expected to support a global declaration to achieve equity for mental health, marking the first time national governments have made a joint pledge to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health.

PA Wire/PA Images
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants to return to her pledge to tackle "burning injustices" 

Doyle-Price, Minister for Mental Health, Inequalities and, now Suicide Prevention, said: “I understand how tragic, devastating and long-lasting the effect of suicide can be on families and communities.

“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.”

Hancock added: “Every suicide is a preventable death and we are determined to do everything we can to tackle the tragedy of suicide.”

Responding to the new Government funding announced today, Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sutherland said: “We welcome the Government’s announcement of funding towards Samaritans’ helpline, which will meet around 10 per cent of the total helpline costs for the next four years and help us to continue to provide our service free of charge.

“Samaritans’ 20,000 volunteers are available at any time for anyone who is struggling to cope. We respond to more than five million requests for help a year.

“This is an acknowledgement of the importance of our vital service.”

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “It is welcome to hear the Prime Minister talking about providing more support for children’s mental health. A focus on wellbeing in schools and on early intervention and regular updates on children’s mental health are all important measures I have been calling for.

“However, we need to see urgent action and implementation now. We cannot afford to wait five years, which feels like a lifetime to a young child.

“I want to see a counsellor in every secondary school, every primary school having access to counselling services, a closing of the huge gap in what is spent on adult and children’s mental health and a system in place that provides support and treatment for every child who needs it, when they need it.

“Today’s announcement is a step forward that must now be matched by proper funding and more ambitious delivery.”