A key commitment in the government’s national suicide prevention strategy has now been delivered upon through the launch of a new suicide surveillance system that aims to tackle emerging methods of suicide and crack down on those looking to sell dangerous products to vulnerable demographics.
A national alert system will also be rolled out in the future so that anyone who comes across any potentially dangerous new methods or risks of suicide will be able to use a direct link to central government to report it. Alerts will also be circulated to authorities such as charities and schools to enable them to take mitigating action where necessary.
The government will work closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to collect near to real-time data from around the country on deaths by suspected suicide by age group, gender and method.
Before now, the only national level suicide data available was from the Office for National Statistics, with official data sometimes taking up to two years to come through. This is all set to change, however, as data will now be received from individual police forces and sent to the government within three months of a suspected suicide.
It’s vital that trends are identified as soon as possible so that preventative measures can be implemented in order to save lives. Female deaths by suicide, for example, are now increasing at a higher rate than male deaths, something that could be addressed more effectively now that this new surveillance system is in operation.
Commenting on the news, mental health minister Maria Caulfield said: “Every suicide is a tragedy and has a devastating, enduring impact on families and communities, but we are working at pace to reduce the number of suicides, support those reaching the lowest point and tackle emerging methods and harmful online material.
“The national suspected suicide surveillance system is vital to achieving this, and will provide important near real-time data so we can spot anomalies in age, gender and method more quickly and take the necessary action to save lives.”
Back in September, the government issued a pledge to reduce the suicide rate in England within two and a half years, with action taken to assist specific groups at risk, including middle-aged men, children and young people, pregnant women, new mothers and autistic people.
As well as the new national alert system, the plans include issuing fresh guidance to first responders, and recognising emerging methods of suicide and how these incidents should be dealt with.
A £10 million suicide prevention grant fund was also recently launched to encourage the voluntary sector to apply for funding so they can continue supporting the thousands of people experiencing suicidal thoughts. An expected spend of £13.6 billion in 2023 also aims to revolutionise mental health service provision to accelerate access to NHS support.
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