National Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee publishes report on suicide prevention

‘Preventing people from taking their own lives is everybody’s business and talking to someone who’s suicidal can never make things worse.’

That’s the message from the National Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee as it publishes its wide-ranging report on suicide prevention.

There were 360 registered deaths from suicide in Wales in 2017, the highest figure since 1981, but it’s thought that official statistics may under-represent the true scale of suicide.

The Committee makes a series of recommendations focusing on better parity between mental and physical health services, improved follow-up care for those discharged from hospital,  and introducing a national training framework for suicide prevention. It says that the Welsh Government should consider the introduction of meaningful targets if it’s serious about achieving parity between physical and mental health

The Committee calls on the Welsh Government to recognise male suicide as a national priority while also urging it to implement specific recommendations around improving and protecting the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people in Wales as set out in the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s Mind Over Matter report.

But while the Committee believes better and consistent services are urgently needed to help those affected by suicide, it also believes more effort is needed to raise awareness of suicide among the general public as well as frontline staff.

The Committee makes 31 recommendations in its report, including:

  • The Welsh Government and other public bodies, including local health boards and local authorities, should make specific funding available for suicide prevention to ensure that it is sustainable in the long term
  • A suicide prevention training framework should be adopted and implemented across all public services in a similar way to the framework for domestic violence, where training requirements are specified depending on the role;
  • The Welsh Government should take the lead in promoting existing materials, such as the ‘See. Say. Signpost.’ training resource as part of a campaign to raise public awareness and embed the message that suicide is everybody’s business and can happen in any community at any time;
  • that the Welsh Government take urgent action to ensure that all GPs in Wales are aware of and understand the GMC guidelines on sharing information and the consensus statement agreed by the UK Department of Health, Royal Colleges and other partners.
  • The Welsh Government must take all necessary steps to ensure parity between mental and physical health services. This should be tied to ‘A Healthier Wales’, and the Welsh Government must ensure that its plans for the development of health and social care services give the same priority to mental health and wellbeing as to physical health; and,
  • that a target be introduced for waiting times for psychological therapies to ensure that those in need receive this support within a suitable timescale. Accessing appropriate therapy early can provide the intervention that’s needed and prevent someone from requiring crisis care at a later stage.

The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.