Let’s mobilise the power of the public through information and education to help reduce suicide, Samaritans CEO tells MPs

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland has called for better training and education for both professionals and the public so that fewer people die by suicide.

Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee’s Suicide Prevention Inquiry, she told MPs that it’s not uncommon to experience suicidal feelings (1 in 5 adults say they have) and that in most people those feelings will pass.*

But she said that the danger lies where a person struggling hides their feelings and goes unnoticed or doesn’t have an opportunity to talk about how they are feeling until it’s too late.

“Let’s avoid the expectation that focusing on health care is going to fix everything. Through information, education and awareness we can mobilise the public. Life is difficult. We all need to understand that and allow and encourage people to talk about difficult thoughts and feelings. That way we can help people earlier. It’s not just about primary care. And let’s not forget the voluntary sector, our twenty thousand volunteers are not specialists but they play a vital role.’

Three times more people die by suicide than from road traffic accidents in the UK, and suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 and of young men and women aged 24-35.

Ruth Sutherland also told the hearing that £25m due to be spent on suicide prevention in England from 2018 was ‘too little, too late, and in the wrong place’. Ring-fencing the funds and channelling them through local authorities rather than through the NHS would have more impact.

She said Samaritans would support the creation of an England-wide body to oversee suicide prevention and drive through change and called for more research into high risk groups to make suicide prevention work more effective.

The charity has been campaigning successfully to ensure that all areas have a local suicide prevention plan but Ruth Sutherland said there was still too much variation and no common standard or understanding of what an effective plan looks like.

Speaking following the hearing, Ruth Sutherland said: ‘Suicide is everybody’s business but politically this is about leadership, accountability and delivery.  And this is urgent. Suicide is not inevitable, it’s preventable. When this Committee publishes its final report, I hope the government will really listen and act quickly. Samaritans will continue campaigning for a society where anyone experiencing suicidal feelings, or worried about someone else, knows how to access effective, high quality support, offered by well-trained and resourced people and services.”

Whatever you’re going through, you can call Samaritans for free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number if FREE to call and won’t show up on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch. 

For interviews and more information, please contact press@samaritans.org or 020 8394 8300.


Notes to Editors