British prime minister Theresa May has named the country’s first-ever minister for suicide prevention in an effort to cut the number of people taking their own lives.
Mrs Jackie Doyle-Price will become the UK’s first minister for mental health, inequalities and suicide prevention, May announced.
“The appointment was made on Tuesday to mark the World Mental Health Day held on Wednesday, a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma,’’ a government press release says.
According to the British government, nearly 4,500 people take their own lives each year in England and suicide remains the leading cause of death for men under 45.
As health is devolved separately to the UK’s four nations, Mrs Doyle-Price’s 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.
The prime minister also announced other plans to tackle suicide problems in Britain. “New government funding, up to £1.8 million (about $2.4 million), will be raised to “help ensure the charity can continue to provide immediate and lifesaving support to everyone who needs it, 24 hours daily.’’
The government also promised to train a million people in mental health awareness, publish a “State of the Nation” report annually starting from 2019, and provide tools to help schools measure their students’ mental wellbeing.
“We can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence. “We can prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives, and we can give the mental wellbeing of our children the priority it so profoundly deserves,” May tweeted on her official Twitter account.
The BBC reports that 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.
Mrs Doyle-Price, who has been an MP since 2010, 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.