News ID: 232546
Published: 0814 GMT October 10, 2018

British PM appoints suicide prevention minister

British PM appoints suicide prevention minister
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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.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the appointment of Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price to the new role will help tackle the stigma surrounding suicide, BBC wrote.

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.

Wednesday's meeting — hosted by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — coincides with World Mental Health Day.

The government has also promised more support in schools, bringing in new mental health support teams and offering help in measuring students' health, including their mental wellbeing.

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."

Alongside the announcement, the prime minister pledged £1.8 million to the Samaritans so the charity can continue providing its free helpline for the next four years.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling, there are a number of charities here to help.

Hannah Lewis — who campaigns for improvements to mental health services having suffered from panic attacks, anxiety and suicidal thoughts as a teenager — said that it can be a year before someone who is referred for help actually begins treatment.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today program: "Mental health is known to deteriorate when you are left without help, and you can only imagine how things got worse with me."

Lewis welcomed the government's announcement — especially the proposals to bring more awareness of mental health into schools — but she added: "More joined-up working at schools and early intervention is great, but we need to make sure then there are sufficient services to be signposted to."

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 she understood the “tragic, devastating and long-lasting" effect of suicide on families, having met some of those bereaved.

"It's these people who need to be at the heart of what we do," she added.

Manchester University's Prof Louis Appleby, one of the country's leading experts on suicide, said having a minister for suicide prevention would ‘open doors’ and make it easier to have conversations about the role such things as benefits and online gambling have in suicidal people's lives.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the appointment would also help with getting support for mental illness on a par with services for physical health.

"There is a long road to travel to get there. This is not something you solve overnight," he said.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, said there had not been enough improvements to services since May pledged to tackle the issue two years ago.

"While we applaud the intention [of the announcement], 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," she said.

"The prime minister must examine our own mental health system before addressing other countries."

   
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