On average, someone commits suicide in England every two hours. That’s over 4,200 suicides a year. That figure may shock you. But what is just as shocking is that a lesbian, gay or bisexual person is twice as likely as a heterosexual person to self harm
I was drawing this awful statistic to people’s attention because Monday was World Suicide Prevention Day. It was also the occasion for me to the launch the Government’s new Suicide Prevention Strategy – the first for ten years. It is based on evidence of what works. Credit is due to Paul Burstow who worked hard to make this happen.
Just one death to suicide is one too many. It can be something of a taboo subject – perhaps one reason why the figure I quoted above comes as such a surprise – and I want to make suicide prevention everyone’s business. We are working alongside almost fifty national organisations, including the Samaritans, to help reduce the suicide rate in England and provide better support for those who have been bereaved or affected by suicide. There are six key areas:
- Research to gain a better understanding of why people take their own life and how it can be prevented – supported by £1.5million new Government funding.
- Working with the media and with the internet industry to help parents ensure their children are not accessing harmful suicide-related websites
- Reducing opportunities for suicide, by making sure prisons and mental health facilities keep people safer
- Better support for high-risk groups such as those with mental health problems and people who self-harm
- Improving services for groups like children and young people and ensuring the mental health needs of those with long-term conditions are being met
- Providing better information and support to those bereaved or affected by suicide
Some groups, such as LGBT are particularly vulnerable, including those with a history of self harm.
Pace Youth Network, which runs groups and services for LGBT young people in and around London, found that 34% of the young people they work with had attempted suicide, harmed themselves or thought about harming themselves in the six months prior to accessing support.
Part of the £1.5million Government funding will go towards research on how to reduce the risk of suicide for people with a history of self harm; how self harm can be better managed in children and young people generally; and how best to tailor interventions to improve the mental health of specific groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
People often ask what we are achieving in Government. Currently ten families a day suffer the shock and bereavement of the suicide of a loved one. As far as I am concerned, that is ten too many – and anything we can do in Government to reduce that figure is something worthwhile, and something we should be talking about.
* Norman Lamb MP is Liberal Democrat Minister of State at the Department of Health