New suicide prevention plan to support most vulnerable

People who are vulnerable to suicide and people who selfharm will be offered greater levels of support as part of a new five-year planto reduce suicide and self harm in Wales.

Talk to Me 2, launched today by Health and Social ServicesMinister Mark Drakeford, identifies those groups of people who are particularlyvulnerable to suicide and self harm and sets out the care they should receive,provided in the right way, in the right place, at the right time.

It also sets out the strategic aims and objectives toprevent and reduce suicide and self harm in Wales and builds on and complementsmeasures set out in Together for Mental Health and the pioneering Mental Health(Wales) Measure 2010.

Groups of people considered at increased risk of suicideinclude:

  • Middle-aged men
  • Vulnerable young people, especially those whoare not in education, training or employment
  • People over-75
  • People in prison orin custody suites and those in psychiatric care.

The suicide and self harm prevention activities, which willbe a national priority in Wales over the next five years, include:

  • Delivering appropriate responses to personal crises, earlyintervention and management of suicide and self harm
  • Further improvingawareness, knowledge and understanding of suicide and self harm among thepublic
  • Providing information and support forpeople bereaved or affected by suicide and self harm
  • Supporting the media inthe responsible reporting and portrayal of suicide and suicidalbehaviour
  • Reducing access to the means of suicide;Continuing to promote andsupport learning, information and monitoring systems and research to improveunderstanding of suicide and self harm in Wales and guide action.

Each year in Wales between 300 and 350 people die fromsuicide – about three times the number killed in road accidents. There areapproximately 5,500 hospital admissions for self harm every year.

Professor Drakeford said:

“Suicide is usually a response to a complex series offactors, which are both personal and related to wider social and communityinfluences. It is a tragedy for all concerned and is a cause of distress formany people – the individual, family, friends, professionals and the widercommunity.

“Our new five-year strategy is deliberately targeted atthose groups of people who are particularly vulnerable to suicide and selfharm.

“It puts in place what we expect services to do to promote,co-ordinate and support plans and programmes to reduce suicide and prevent selfharm at national, regional and local levels.

“Prevention of suicide and self harm is a major challengefor us all but no single organisation or government department can tackle thisissue in isolation. This is why national suicide prevention strategies are akey component in reducing suicide. They establish the strategic frameworkneeded for a range of interventions by many organisations and sectors in ajoined-up way.

“The successful implementation of Together for MentalHealth, the Mental Health Measure and Talk to Me 2 will make a significantcontribution to the prevention of suicide and self harm in Wales.”

Talk to Me 2 builds on the first Talk to Me plan, which waslaunched in 2009.

Dr Ann John, associate professor at Swansea University, whochairs the Welsh Government’s national advisory group on suicide and self harmprevention, said:

“As part of the planning around Talk to Me 2, we aim totarget middle-aged men because our data shows suicide rates in this group arehigh compared to other groups, which has been highlighted by a Samaritans’national campaign.

“We will also support vulnerable young people, especiallythose who are not in education, training or employment as highlighted in theChild Death Review of Probable Suicide last year; the over-75s; those in prisonor in custody suites and those in psychiatric settings.

“Importantly, we need to encourage people to seek helpbefore they reach a crisis point and enable those around them to respond.”

Hafal’s Chief Executive Alun Thomas said: “HafalMembers welcome the Strategy and Action Plan and its aim of reducing suicideand self-harm in Wales. Every suicide is a tragedy, both for the personthemselves and the family they leave behind.

“Our view is that providing good quality mentalhealth services is one of the most important actions in reducing the rate ofsuicide and self harm. The priority should be placed on people with seriousmental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“If you know and /or are in contact with a group where 25%of the suicides happen (people known to mental health services), then this iswhere you should focus prevention work as it will have the greatest impact. Of the other 75%, many will have an undiagnosed mentalillness – so improving awareness and access to mental health services would beone option rather than a ‘broad brush’ approach to identifying and reachingthose at risk.

“Additionally,suicides within groups in contact with Criminal Justice services should betaken in the context where many people in those services have serious mentalillness, particularly in women’s prisons.

“Proper implementation of the Mental Health (Wales)Measure provides another opportunity to reduce risk. The Measure prescribes aholistic care plan which empowers patients to set recovery goals, identifyrisks and plan for crises; this care plan is shared with all agencies whoprovide care and ensures that they all have key information about the patient.

“Early intervention is also key for people with aserious mental illness: the sooner a person receives help for their mentalillness, the less likely they are to harm themselves or commit suicide. OurEarly Intervention Service in Gwent aims to provide an accessible and positiveservice which offers support at as early a stage as possible.

“It’s also essential that health professionals listento families and carers: they know the person best, and they recognise the signsand risks of suicide and self harm.”