Conservatives Appoint A Minister For Suicide Prevention
By Sofy Robertson
Earlier today, Grow wrote about the first Ministerial Mental Health Summit taking place in London. This is not the only ‘first’ that World Mental Health Day has to offer. A new role in government has been created today as the Prime Minister announced the appointment of a minister for suicide prevention.
A first for the UK, and thought to be a first for the world, Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price assumes the role of minister for suicide prevention.
It is hoped that the creation of this role will constitute a major step in suicide prevention. 4500 take their own lives in England every year and it is the leading cause of death in men under the age of 45. (CNN)
The minister for suicide prevention will head up a ministerial task force that will work alongside experts in suicide and self-harm prevention as well as charities, clinicians and those personally affected by suicide.
Doyle-Price spoke about her new role saying:
“In my time as health minister I have met many people who have been bereaved by suicide and their stories of pain and loss will stay with me for a long time. It’s these people who need to be at the heart of what we do and I welcome this opportunity to work closely with them, as well as experts, to oversee a cross-government suicide prevention plan, making their sure their views are always heard.” (CNN)
Globally, suicide is the leading cause of death for young people aged between 15 and 19 and mental health disorders have seen a drastic rise in the last 25 years according to Dr Pattel of Harvard University.
As well as the creation of this new role, the government has also promised more support in schools , including new mental health support teams. In addition, the prime minister pledged £1.8 million to the Samaritans so that the charity can continue providing its free helpline. Theresa May says:
“We can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence and prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives.” (BBC)
The UK government has been widely criticised for the shortfalls in its mental health services with many critics blaming the austerity drive. Barbara Keeley, the Labour Party’s spokesperson for mental health says:
“A focus on suicide prevention is long overdue given the appalling increase in suicide rates since 2010, particularly among young people, but it also needs proper funding of front line services. Mental health services are still being underfunded by the Conservative government.” (CNN)
Chukumeka Maxwell, CEO and Co-founding Director of Action to Prevent Suicide, a Devon based Community Interest Company (CIC), took the time to speak to us following the appointment of Doyle-Price. He summarises:
“There’s a much broader cause at work here. It’s a drop in the ocean, but it’s a drop in the right ocean. Jackie’s got a wide portfolio and we are the first country to have a minister for suicide prevention. That’s a good thing.”
Chukumeka speaks more broadly about his career and the fantastic work that Action to Prevent Suicide do in the October edition of Grow. To find out more about Chukumeka and his work with the CIC, visit their website and read his interview with our editor, Joff Alexander-Frye here.
There is no doubt that as a society we still have a long way to go in tackling the stigma surrounding mental health and putting it on the same plane as physical health, one of the key aims of the ministerial summit.
What we can celebrate is that mental health is being talked about. On Twitter, the hashtag #WorldMentalHealthDay and its variations is trending with a phenomenal amount of tweets. Those that have died by suicide are being remembered to remind us of the path we need to make going forward. In that spirit, it seems fitting to end this article with the words of one of my favourite actors, Robin Williams, who took his own life after years of struggling with his mental health:
“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel alone.”