There is no more important work than this, Minister tells NSPA's first conference

There is no more important work than suicide prevention, Health Minister Norman Lamb told the first ever conference of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance yesterday.

Suicide needs to be openly debated and talked about in a way which did not happen in the past, he told the audience of representatives from the private, public and voluntary sector at the Oval, in Kennington, London.

“There is a public perception that there is a tragic inevitability about suicide, but talking someone back from suicide, while difficult and emotionally draining, is possible,” he said.

Minimum waiting times for mental health issues should operate in the same way as they do for cancer and A&E, or operations, Mr Lamb said. The maximum waiting time for someone with depression to receive help should be six weeks.

Getting help early should be a priority, particularly for children and young people. Access to services fell “massively short” too often, he said. He gave examples of initiatives around the country, including Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide who support people affected by suicide, and the Street Triage project which allows the mental health nurses and police to share information to help people in crisis.

He also referenced the figures from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Suicide Prevention which found around a third of Local Authorities do not have suicide prevention plans, multi-agency suicide prevention groups and do not review local data on suicide. This was not acceptable, he said.

“If we work together and if we give mental health and suicide prevention the priority they deserve, we can make sure that people are both healthy and happy,” Mr Lamb said.

Suicide figures rose by circa five per cent in 2013 according to Government statistics, said Professor Louis Appleby, chair of the National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group. The group most at risk are middle aged men in their 40s to early 50s.

Collecting data and doing research was essential to underpin the work that was being done, Professor Appleby said.

Public Health England will work to support partners by providing intelligence, guidance and data, said Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing. They were currently working to reduce suicide in public places, geographic suicide contagion and the impact of social media, as well as identifying at risk groups.

“This conference is an opportunity to bring people together and to share best practice, and to keep suicide prevention at the top of the agenda,” said NSPA Co-Chair Alison Mohammed. “We need all sections of society to work together to reduce suicide and improve support for those bereaved by suicide.

“Encouraging at risk groups and indeed everybody, to seek help early and to publicise the support available for those who are struggling, is crucial,” Alison said. More suicide prevention training, making it harder to access the means of suicide and collaborative working with partner organisations are also very important, Alison said.

The measures the NSPA has taken includes working with 15 organisations to lobby the Chief Coroner, launching the NSPA website, funding work to develop guidance for community moderators to support vulnerable people online and funding work led by the Suicide Bereavement Support Partnership to develop a framework of support for people affected by suicide.

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Notes to editors:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) is a cross-sector, England-wide coalition committed to reducing the number of suicides in England, and improving support for those bereaved or affected by suicide. The NSPA has developed from the Call to Action for Suicide Prevention and will continue to build on this national collaboration.
  • Co-Chairs of the Alliance are Catherine Johnstone, Chief Executive Officer of Samaritans; Alison Mohammed, Chief Operating Officer, Rethink Mental Illness; and Hamish Elvidge, Chair of The Matthew Elvidge Trust.
  • The NSPA is working with more than 50 organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors, who are committed to working towards reducing suicide and providing support for people bereaved by suicide.
  • Members include Rethink Mental Illness, Samaritans and The Matthew Elvidge Trust, that jointly Chair the NSPA, PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, NSPCC, Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Mind. The NSPA is funded by the Department of Health and the conference is supported by Public Health England.
  • For further information about National Suicide Prevention Alliance please contact

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