The director of the local branch of Samaritans says she is disappointed by the lack of responses from parliamentary candidates to her letter outlining what they and a future government could do to reduce suicide.
The charity wrote to candidates in the Exeter, Mid Devon and Central Devon constituencies, setting out four key policies on how suicide risks could be minimised.
This could be achieved through improved mental health information and diagnosis, the creation of a local suicide prevention plan, tackling alcohol misuse and understanding its link to suicide, and making the Samaritans telephone service free for users.
“We are of course delighted to have received four very positive responses but there were 13 other candidates who did not even reply” says Helen Crossfield, director of Exeter, East & Mid-Devon Samaritans, which has its headquarters in Exeter.
The responses from the four candidates are reproduced below.
“We’re going to be taking forward our four policies, contacting newly-elected MPs and discussing exactly what they can do to help reduce suicide risk” says Helen.
More than 6,000 people die by suicide every year in the UK. Nearly 80 per cent are men, and male suicide rates are now at their highest level since 2001.
Samaritans provides support to people who are distressed or in despair, which may lead to thoughts of suicide. People can talk to us at any time, in their own way and in confidence, about whatever is going on in their life.
Samaritans four policies put to local candidates are:
- Making sure mental health has the same priority within the NHS as physical health. This would mean local hospitals, surgeries and NHS centres offering better information and improved diagnosis of mental health;
- Establishing a suicide prevention plan in our local area. This would include gathering information to understand who is at risk, where they are and how best to help them, plus suicide prevention training and follow-up support for people who attend hospital A&E departments as a result of self-harm or suicide attempts;
- Tackling alcohol misuse and understanding its link to suicide risk. This would involve working closely with local addiction services to help tackle the suicide risk associated with alcohol misuse; and
- Help make the Samaritans telephone service free. The Exeter, East & Mid-Devon branch of Samaritans took 23,411 calls from the public in 2014. “We believe it’s vital that people who are struggling to cope should know we’re here to help without having to worry about the cost of the call” says Helen Crossfield.
The responses were:
Ben Bradshaw (Labour, Exeter)
Thank you very much for your email. I fully support and agree with what you've outlined above.
Alex White (Liberal Democrat, Central Devon)
Thanks for getting in touch. You can absolutely rely on the support of the Liberal Democrats. We want to make mental health a priority in the next parliament.
Andy Williamson (Geen Party, Central Devon)
Thanks for writing. I fully support all these. And this is exactly the kind of thing I as Green Party MP would, I think, be able to help with.
Claire Wright (Independent, East Devon)
Thank you for getting in touch. I am a passionate advocate of mental health issues and would always support measures that would help prevent the tragedy of suicide.