Collaboration can combat needless deaths

Sarah Stone, Executive Director of Samaritans in Wales 


We need greater recognition that suicide is linked to socioeconomic disadvantage, but we also need to dispel the myth that many deaths by suicide must therefore be inevitable.

Suicide has a devastating effect on individuals, families and communities and Samaritans in Wales is committed to working hard to make sure we are there for people who need us the most. Suicide is an inequality issue and it is crucial that we begin to realise the implications of this; every statistic is a person and one who should not be at a higher risk of suicide because of their socioeconomic status.

In Wales, between 300 and 350 people die from suicide each year; this is about 3 times the number killed in road accidents. While causes of suicides are complex, we do know that there are factors which increase the risk for specific groups and individuals.

Socioeconomic disadvantage or living in an area of socioeconomic deprivation increases the risk of suicidal behaviour.  For example, men from the lowest socio-economic group living in the most deprived areas are approximately ten times more likely to die by suicide than those in affluent areas. In Wales, every local authority has a unique geography, economy, and population; it follows that a profile of deprivation and associated suicide risk will also vary between local populations.

Talk to Me 2, the Welsh Government Suicide and Self Harm prevention strategy, identifies the link between suicide and deprivation and acknowledges that suicide prevention should address this inequality. The existence of such plans, and their effective implementation, is vital for efforts to reduce suicide in Wales. However, addressing socioeconomic disadvantage and suicide is not a single task for any organisation or sector in isolation. It is instead, a local and national imperative and one that should be a major and urgent priority in the national public health agenda in Wales.

At a societal, community and individual level, the key findings of Dying from Inequality and the actions needed to mitigate them, present us with the opportunity to work collaboratively in a way that is truly cross-sectoral and cross-governmental.

At a time when nearly a quarter of the Welsh population lives in poverty, we are committed to policy approaches in suicide prevention that mitigate the devastating effects of socioeconomic disadvantage in Wales. For Samaritans in Wales, this report will act as a springboard to enable significant consultation, engagement and discussion with stakeholders and agencies, with whom we will work with to identify policy approaches and areas of collaboration.