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Updated action plan to reduce suicide in Wales
The national action plan, ‘Talk to Me’, aims to raise awareness of suicide and self-harm and encourage people to talk more about their problems to remove the stigma that is associated with emotional and mental health problems.
Many of the draft recommendations have already been rolled out:
- Nearly 2,000 frontline staff have been trained in Mental Health First Aid, a programme to identify and assist people displaying signs of mental health problems.
- 900 people have received Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), practical training for care-givers seeking to prevent the immediate risk of suicide.
- An all-Wales, telephone and text service to support people experiencing mental health problems has been extended to be available 24 hours a day. The bilingual Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L.) took 20,277 calls in 12 months up to October 2009, a 50 per cent increase on the previous year. The action plan encourages people to discuss their problems and concerns, as the name ‘Talk to Me’ suggests.
- In October 2009, the Samaritans appointed an Assembly Government-funded national coordinator for Wales, to increase awareness of Samaritans services across Wales and support the delivery of suicide reduction programmes in the country.
Following the consultation on the draft plan, a bite-sized course on recognising signs of mental distress is also being developed for health professionals, to be rolled out in April 2010.
The responses to the consultation indicated that many professionals felt they had some of the necessary skills and would find it difficult to take too much time out of their daily schedules to complete a longer course. The programme, ‘Connecting with People,’ has been developed to reduce the stigma associated with self harm and increase understanding of self harm and suicidal behaviour.
The programme has been awarded new funding totalling £85,000 from the Welsh Assembly Government to further develop it to support delivery of the action plan.
The Welsh Assembly Government has also provided more than £400,000 a year for the 24-hour helpline and £100,000 a year for the Samaritans coordinator, while £1.7 million for the training programmes comes from Welsh Assembly Government and lottery funding.
Health Minister Edwina Hart said:
“It will take time to see significant reductions in rates of suicide and self-harm in Wales but by raising awareness of the support available and increasing training, we hope to reach those who may be most vulnerable to suicide and to encourage them to talk about their problems.
“With one in four of us likely to experience some kind of mental health problem during our lives, it is important that there is a better understanding and empathy with those affected to make it easier for them to seek help.
“Every suicide is a tragedy where a life and family member is lost, with a lasting effect on those left behind. We hope that this plan will make people feel more able to talk about their problems and ask for help, and that help will be more readily available.”
Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell said:
“The action plan aims to promote improved mental health and well being by encouraging people to talk more about their personal difficulties and get help quickly when they need it.
“Talking about these issues does not create or increase risk, it reduces it. If people understand the issues they will be better placed to provide help or know where to find support.
"Calls to the 24-hour helpline have increased since last year, which is a promising sign that people are more aware of the service and more prepared to talk about their problems and concerns.”
Welcoming the plan, Simon Hatch, Samaritans director for Wales, said:
“We welcome the launch of ‘Talk to me’, which aims to reduce suicide by encouraging people to talk more about their personal difficulties. This focus aligns itself with the very core of Samaritans work and our belief that giving people the opportunity to talk can alleviate feelings of despair and reduce suicidal feelings.
“As part of my new role, I look forward to working closely with the Welsh Assembly Government over the coming years to ensure that anyone experiencing emotional distress in Wales has access to the 24/7 support they need”.