Suicide prevention – Important inquiry by Committee
I am sometimes asked about our Committee work in the Assembly and what we do?
It is often the unsung, detailed work that we do on Committees which helps to shed some light on the reality behind many issues . One current example is the work of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee on Suicide Prevention. We decided upon this inquiry in September 2017 in order to build on the previous work around loneliness and isolation. Shortly after deciding on the inquiry we had the tragic events in the Assembly itself.
For many weeks now we have been taking expert evidence about suicide incidents in Wales, approaches to suicide prevention, Welsh Government strategy on this subject, the effectiveness of support services and other interventions. The Committee has received evidence from, amongst others, leading academics, practitioners in the field, Local Health Boards, Police, Fire and Rescue, Prison Service, national and local charities, considered the importance of language in discussing a suicide, and the work around tackling stigma and increasing awareness. So what have I learnt so far?
Between 300 and 350 people in Wales die from suicide each year. It is a major cause of death amongst people aged 15-44. About three quarters of people who take their own lives are men. “Every suicide is a tragedy and causes distress for family, friends, professionals and the wider community. Although the factors that contribute to suicide are many and complex, suicide is potentially preventable” (Ann John Prof of Public health).
The evidence received suggests some groups are more at risk of suicide:
- Middle aged men,
- Vulnerable children and young people,
- People over-65 with poor physical and mental health,
- People in prison or custody suites and those in psychiatric care,
- People with a history of self harm.
We received evidence from many sources about vital work on suicide prevention.
Papyrus campaigns on the prevention of young suicide and directed us to resources like #SpotTheSigns a film that helps to identify signals among young people.
Mind Cymru have directed the Committee towards the types of changes needed in mental health services and support. I was interested to also learn about projects like “Active Monitoring” in Merthyr Tydfil that provide mental health services in primary care settings to help make early interventions when people need support.
In examining the national strategy Talk 2 me we have considered the effectiveness of links between national and local strategies. There is a national advisory group and expert advice in respect of armed forces personnel, police and Fire and Rescue etc. We have listened to advice on the work of therapists and psychologists.
The Committee’s work is far from complete but it is very clear to me that in mental health and suicide prevention we need to focus on the wellbeing of the individual. This may require a range of interventions but it seems the sooner that can be achieved the better will be the outcomes and more people may avoid the tragedy of suicide.