New North Wales plan to prevent suicide and self-harm aims to make the issue ‘everybody’s business’

A new plan to prevent suicide and self-harm in North Wales will aim to make the issue ‘everybody’s business’.

Organisations including Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), Public Health Wales, local authorities, North Wales Police and third sector groups including the Samaritans have come together to develop a strategic action plan to reduce suicide and self-harm over the next three years.

Feedback from Caniad, which represents people who have a lived experience of mental health problems, has also been used to put the plan together, as part of BCUHB’s commitment to involving them in ongoing efforts to improve services.

The plan was identified as a key priority in BCUHB’s recently published mental health strategy – which sets out the direction for mental health and wellbeing services across North Wales.

Richard Birch from Brymbo near Wrexham has made a number of attempts to take his own life and his feedback has been used to put the plan together. He said:

“When I’m experiencing suicidal thoughts I feel very lonely and isolated. There’s often a conviction that nobody loves or cares for you and you can doubt the genuineness of people even when they are trying to offer support.

“Knowing the triggers when people are feeling desperate and making them feel wanted and needed can really help. I’ve also found that using the CALL Mental Health Helpline and talking to others has helped.

“Suicide is still a taboo subject and the behaviours associated with suicide and self-harm are still perceived as ‘attention seeking’ and negative. As well as playing a crucial role in preventing suicide and self-harm I think that this plan has an important role to play in raising awareness.”

Professor Robert Atenstaedt, Consultant in Public Health Medicine with BCUHB’s Public Health Directorate, said:

“Every suicide is a tragedy that has a significant impact on family members, friends, colleagues and the wider community long after a person has died. There are also large inequalities in suicide and self-harm which should not exist.”

“Statistics show that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 years, and for every person who dies by suicide, another nine will have attempted to take their own life.”

Dr Gwenllian Parry, Chair of the multi-agency North Wales Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention Group, said:

“No single organization can reduce suicide and self-harm by themselves, and it will require a dedicated long-term focus and a commitment to continue to work together so that suicide and self-harm prevention truly becomes everyone’s business.”

The plan will target priority groups across North Wales which include men in mid-life; older people over 75 years with depression and a physical illness; children and young people with a background of vulnerability; people in mental health services and people with a history of self-harm.

Amongst the priority actions in the plan are improved outcomes for people experiencing a mental health crisis, further training for professionals who frequently come into contact with people at risk of suicide or self-harm and an improvement in data on suicide and self-harm in North Wales.