Samaritans’ response to the Covid Mental Health Renewal plan and the National Suicide Prevention Strategy progress report.
Julie Bentley, CEO of Samaritans, said:
“Samaritans welcomes the long called for Mental Health Recovery Action Plan announced by the Government today, alongside the suicide prevention strategy progress report. These are important steps in the right direction and we are pleased to see a commitment to cross-government action and financial backing for the voluntary sector which provides critical services that help prevent suicide.
“With two-thirds of people who die by suicide not in touch with mental health services in the year before their death, we need bold action. The fact remains that the Government’s target, to reduce suicide by 10% nationally by the end of this year, will not be met. Even before the pandemic, the latest data showed a concerning increase in the overall suicide rate, starting in 2018 and reversing this trend requires action beyond a one year investment.
“Fortunately, there is no evidence of a national rise in suicides during the pandemic, but the delays in recording deaths mean that this remains an emerging picture. It’s absolutely crucial that timely information on suicides is available, to allow us to monitor and respond to any increases in suicide rates within a particular area or group across the country and ultimately, save lives. The national roll out of collecting early real-time data on suspected suicides is long overdue.
“The report recognises the impact coronavirus has had on risk factors for suicide including economic adversity, job loss, bereavement and loneliness. We know that in the last recession, suicide risk increased for men particularly those on low incomes because of the economic downturn, so schemes providing financial security to those facing loss of income is vital. Upskilling others on the front line, like Jobcentre Plus staff, to recognise signs of distress and signpost to sources of support is much needed.
“The pressures from the pandemic are likely to continue for some time. Therefore, suicide prevention should be embedded at the outset in the ways that the Government tackles issues like unemployment and debt in order to create practical means of supporting vulnerable individuals at every opportunity. It will be crucial that the proposed mental health impact assessment is trialled as soon as possible, prioritising the well-being of the nation.”