We need to make suicide prevention a priority for government, with everyone working together to reduce deaths, Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland told the Health and Social Care Select Committee.
Although significant progress has been made since March 2017 when the Committee published its recommendations, it has been too slow in key areas, Ruth said.
It’s fantastic that NHS England money is now starting to reach some of the highest risk areas for suicide, we have a national cross-government delivery group and practically every area has a suicide prevention plan.
However, the impact has not been as wide-ranging as we would have hoped. Every delay, prevarication and loss of strategic focus is a missed opportunity to save lives. In 2017, 4,451 lives were lost to suicide.
“Suicide needs to be tackled as a joined-up public health priority, with an ambitious and properly resourced workplan that includes all government departments, not just Health and Social Care, Education and Justice,” Ruth said.
“Local areas need more resources and support to ensure their suicide prevention action plans can be implemented effectively. And we need government to listen, in a systematic way, to the millions of people who have felt suicidal and ensure their voices are guiding policy and practice,” she added.
Samaritans receives over 5 million requests for help every year from people who are overwhelmed emotionally, struggling with everyday life; relationship breakdown, social isolation, financial worries, social and work pressures.
Whilst important, it is not enough to focus on the third of people who die by suicide that are in contact with mental health services.
We also have to reach the two-thirds of people who aren’t in contact with these services, and this means taking a whole-community approach to the issue. We want government to ensure it’s taking action for all high-risk groups, with ambitious cross cutting targets, working with the voluntary sector to save lives.