Department of Health and Social Care
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Government action to prevent suicide and better support the bereaved

Government action to prevent suicide and better support the bereaved

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 19 July 2011

Consultation launched to inform new suicide prevention strategy

A new consultation on preventing suicide has been launched today by the Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow. Bereaved families and experts in general practice, local government, transport, mental health and criminal justice will all help to inform a new strategy to be published in the New Year.

One person dies every two hours as a result of suicide in England – the Government is determined to do all it can to prevent suicides.

The suicide strategy will place a new emphasis on family members. This means working with relatives to prevent a vulnerable person taking their own life and better supporting those who have been bereaved following a suicide.

Paul Burstow is meeting with the families of suicide victims today to hear their thoughts on how suicide can be prevented. The families will continue to advise the Government on what care and support is valued by bereaved families, and those worried that a loved one is feeling suicidal.

The Government has asked the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Nursing, NHS Confederation to share their views on how healthcare professionals should work with family members to prevent suicides. This is the beginning of a new discussion between Government and the medical profession on how to best take families into their confidence in helping a suicidal patient, whilst respecting patient confidentiality.

Paul Burstow said:

“Losing a loved one to suicide is a tragedy. I want to make sure that we are doing all we can to prevent suicides and give vulnerable people the support they desperately need. I have been listening to families who have been bereaved following a suicide, and have called upon experts in healthcare, criminal justice and transport to help us put together a new strategy to save people from taking their own lives.

“It’s essential that family members get good emotional and practical support if they’ve lost a loved one to suicide. I have asked healthcare professionals and coroners to ensure that the Department of Health’s Help is at Hand book is offered to help families cope in their bereavement.”

Improving care for families who have been bereaved by suicide is central to the new strategy. The Government has recently updated the ‘Help is at Hand’ book, which gives vital information to those who have lost a loved one to suicide. The Care Services Minister has written to the Royal College of GPs, The Coroners’ Society, Association of Chief Police Officers to call for the ‘Help is at Hand’ book to be publicised and distributed more widely. As part of the consultation, GPs, coroners and police have been asked to find new ways to ensure families get essential emotional support and practical advice following a suicide.

The consultation calls for views on six areas of action:

Reduce the risk of suicide in key high risk groups such as prisoners;Tailor approaches to improve mental health in specific groups such as veterans and people with depression or alcohol addiction;Reduce access to the means of suicide in order to reduce the number of suicides; Provide better information and support to those bereaved or affected by a suicide;Support the media in delivering sensible and sensitive approaches to suicide and suicidal behaviour; andSupport research, data collection and monitoring.

Alongside the Department of Health’s strategy consultation, Samaritans is appealing to all national suicide prevention organisations to join its Call to Action to pledge to undertake actions, independently or collectively, to prevent suicide.

Samaritans Chief Executive, Catherine Johnstone, said:

“We whole-heartedly welcome the Government’s new commitment to preventing suicide. Death by suicide means a lost life, lost talent, a lost parent, sibling or child, and a wound that does not easily heal in families and communities. In order to reduce death by suicide we need collaboration, coordination and action from many stakeholders across all sectors.

“Because a wide range of factors contribute to suicidal behaviour, we are calling on the public, voluntary and private sectors alike to show their commitment by joining in the Call to Action for suicide prevention in England. By working together we can achieve more.”

Notes to Editors

For further information, or to request an interview with case study who has lost a family member to suicide, please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221

Consultation on Preventing Suicide in England: A cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives is online for contributions by 11 October at

To see more detail on Samaritans’ Call to Action go to:

New figures on the prevalence of suicide have been published today by the University of Manchester in the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness

The Help is at Hand book is also available online here Help is at Hand - Department of Health.

Proposals put forward in the consultation have been drawn up by the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group, which includes families, academics and coroners and is chaired by Professor Louis Appleby CBE.

4,400 lives a year are lost to suicide and it is a leading cause of death in young adults.


Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221

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