Thank you for contacting me about Government action to reduce self-harm and suicide.
Every case of suicide is a tragedy many times over: for the person who could see no way out; for their family and friends, often left with an intolerable burden of guilt; and also, for society as a whole in its failure to provide greater support.
I also recognise that there are also some clear disparities in suicide rates across the country. Someone is twice as likely to die from suicide in the North East compared to London, and men living in more deprived areas are at 10 times more risk of suicide than in the least deprived areas. The Government is committed to spreading wealth and opportunity across the country, as well as tackling deprivation where it exists.
As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the Government is boosting the suicide reduction programme in England by £57 million of funding by 2023/24 which will support local suicide prevention plans and establish suicide bereavement support services. All mental health providers now have 24/7 urgent mental health helplines in place.
You may also be assured to hear that through the Online Safety Bill, companies will be required to proactively remove and limit the spread of illegal content which encourages or incites suicide online.
I note calls to make suicide prevention a compulsory part of the school curriculum. I would like to reassure you that all pupils in schools are taught about mental health as part of the relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) curriculum, which the Department for Education made mandatory in 2020 to ensure that all pupils are taught about important topics. Schools can teach older pupils about suicide in an age-appropriate and sensitive way. The RSHE statutory guidance advises that schools should approach teaching about self-harm and suicide carefully and should be aware of the risks to pupils from exposure to materials that are instructive rather than preventative, including websites or videos that provide instructions or methods of self-harm or suicide. The guidance is clear that where teachers have
concerns about a specific pupil in relation to self-harm or suicidal thoughts, they must follow safeguarding procedures immediately.
Finally, the Government has announced its intention to develop and publish a Major Conditions Strategy. The Strategy will set out a strong and coherent policy agenda that sets out a shift to integrated, whole-person care. Interventions set out in the Strategy will aim to alleviate pressure on the health system, as well as support the Government’s objective to increase healthy life expectancy and reduce ill-health related labour market inactivity. Mental ill health is one of the six major conditions included in the Strategy. The Government will also take forward a separate Suicide Prevention Strategy this year.
Just one life lost to suicide is one too many. With the implementation of these policies, the Government hopes to find new ways to prevent suicide.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.