A minister for suicide prevention has been appointed in England by the prime minister as the government hosts the first ever global mental health summit.
Theresa May said the appointment of Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price to the new role will help tackle the stigma surrounding suicide.
While suicide rates are falling, 4,500 people take their own lives every year.
The appointment comes as ministers and officials from more than 50 countries assemble in London for the summit.
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Wednesday’s meeting – hosted by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – coincides with World Mental Health Day.
Ms May said: “We can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence and prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives.”
Where to go if you need help
If you, or someone you know, is struggling, there are a number of charities here to help.
- The Samaritans are open 24 hours a day. Call 116 123 or email email@example.com
- The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) offers support to men. Call 0800 58 58 58 between 17:00 and 00:00 everyday or visit their webchat page here
- Papyrus helps people under 35. Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm – or text 07786 209697
- Childline is available for children and young people under 19. Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on your bill
- The Silver Line helps older people. Call 0800 4 70 80 90
Alongside the announcement, the prime minister pledged £1.8m to the Samaritans so the charity can continue providing its free helpline for the next four years.
Mrs Doyle-Price, who has been an MP since 2010, will now become the minister for mental health, inequalities and suicide prevention.
As health is devolved separately to the UK’s four nations, her role will include making sure each local area in England has effective plans to stop unnecessary deaths and to look into how technology could help identify those at risk.
She said: “I understand how tragic, devastating and long-lasting the effect of suicide can be on families and communities.
“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.”
Manchester University’s Prof Louis Appleby, one of the country’s leading experts on suicide, said it was an “important” move to have a minister for suicide prevention.
He said suicide was not just a health issue, but cut across numerous government departments.
He said having a minister would help “open doors” and make it easier to have conversations about suicide and the role of everything from benefits to online gambling.
The Only Way Is Essex star Tommy Mallet wants to encourage other men to open up about their feelings.
Mallet, who has spoken about his mental health struggles during the current ITVBe series, has started a campaign #icrybecause on social media.
He said he had experienced “a tough few months” but wanted to use that to help people, adding: “Just letting you all know it’s OK not to be OK.”
His co-stars have also got involved, revealing what makes them cry.
Read more about their campaign here.
But others criticised the government’s record on mental health.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, said: “While we applaud the intention, it is striking that the UK should be hosting such a summit when we hear daily about people left untreated due to a lack of nurses and doctors.
“This failure of psychiatric services has huge social and economic implications.
“Two years ago, Theresa May announced a comprehensive plan to tackle the ‘hidden injustice’ of mental illness in our country, yet in recent weeks there have been disturbing reports that people are being detained in police cells for up to six days for the lack of NHS beds, children referred to specialist services being turned away and lives being damaged due to long waits to get treatment.
“The prime minister must examine our own mental health system before addressing other countries.”