Draft Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill and Explanatory Memorandum

Samaritans Cymru consultation response

Draft Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill and Explanatory Memorandum

In June 2015, we launched our key messages for the Assembly elections 2016. Our manifesto, ‘Four Steps to Save Lives’ focuses on the four most prominent areas where Welsh Government could implement changes and initiatives to reduce rising suicide rates. Step Three of ‘Four Steps to Save Lives’ is focused on tackling alcohol misuse to reduce suicide rates in Wales, with the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing being one of our main recommendations for achieving this change. Therefore, we welcome the Draft Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill and have expanded on our support, with some suggestions below.

Explanatory Memorandum

We believe that the introduction of MUP would help save lives and make a significant contribution to public health in Wales. We believe that the evidence presented within the explanatory memorandum is comprehensive but should include suicide. Suicide is a escalating public health issue and there is a close relationship between alcohol and suicide.

In its primary context, alcohol can contribute to the development of mental health problems and can hinder or worsen diagnosed mental health management. Individuals may use alcohol to self-medicate or to manage their mental health. If suicidal ideation features as a symptom of a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health condition, alcohol can be a risk factor. Alcohol misuse reduces inhibitions and makes acting on suicidal thoughts more likely, with as many as 65%  of suicides being linked to excessive drinking. Misuse of alcohol increases the risk of suicide, particularly for men, who are 8 times more likely to kill themselves under the influence.

As a secondary cause, risk factors for suicide, such as social withdrawal and relationship breakdown, are also common outcomes of untreated alcohol abuse and dependence. Suicide is a cause of death for a substantial percentage of alcoholics.

With this in mind, we believe that rising suicide rates and suicide prevention in Wales should be referenced in the Explanatory Memorandum alongside alcohol misuse in order to highlight its co-existence. 

Regulatory Impact Assessment

We are pleased to see the inclusion of young people within ‘Alcohol Consumption’. We believe it should remain as a serious concern, despite its decrease over the last few years. Despite the drop in figures, it should be noted that young people under 24 are particularly vulnerable to thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts and completed suicides under the influence of alcohol. The Thematic Review of deaths of children and young people through probable suicide, 2006 – 2012 strongly recommended that access to alcohol for children and young people should be restricted. Within this review, alcohol is listed as a proximal factor associated with the event itself.