This week has seen a number of articles across the media focussed on Suicide; presumably this is a result of reports from both the Governments Health Select and Public Health England (PHE) .
The report from the Health Select chaired by Dr Sarah Wollaston MP , is an interim progress update on the Suicide Prevention Programme, the committee concluded ‘suicide is preventable‘ and made several recommendations, most of which will require the Government to increase spend across mental health and support services for the programme to work. The report commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) aimed to to ‘gain a better understanding of factors that influence suicide‘ and was analysed by the Office for National Statistics to identify “which professions have the highest risk of suicide“.
The Health Select report also according to The Guardian to “stop raising awareness of methods, which puts vulnerable people at risk” Now I can’t deny that watching or reading about suicide attempts may inform people however, I totally dispute people are driven to kill themselves as a result of receiving this information.
The suggestion that most individuals watching a TV programme wherein a character kills themselves would imitate the actions on screen is to me, highly offensive. As someone who has seriously considered ending my life on occasions, I am enraged by this patronising and totally simplistic idea. More importantly this conjecture indicates those MPs responsible for monitoring the Suicide Prevention Programme have little or no understanding of the complexity of the reasons why 18,998 individuals who ended their life 2011-15.
The analysis of the causes of these 18,998 deaths between 2011 – 2015 was undertaken to inform the Health Select gain a better understanding of factors that influence suicide; from this there are numerous media articles highlighting the varying occupations of people who have taken their lives. I’ve read of male construction workers, female nurses, tortured geniuses, primary school teachers, carers and low skilled male workers all being at great risk; but few of them mention these findings of the ONS ” it may not be the actual occupation that puts individuals at risk, but features of the job such as low pay, job security and the wider socio-economic characteristics of individuals employed in a particular sector.
I suggest a common denominator amongst people employed in these high risk occupations is an equally high risk of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues and propose it is these factors rather than information of ways to take your own life?
Given this I suggest the Health Select ought to be telling the Government to cease the destruction of Rights at work, introduce a living wage, stop the cuts to benefits and invest in immediate housing developments so low paid employees can access decent homes with long term secure leases and immediately provide the Health Service with the resources it needs to secure appropriate mental health services and support. Fulfilment of these suggestions would actually go some way to addressing some of the complex reasons for suicides, and therefore assure many suicides being “prevented”.
It must be noted, regardless of the purported desire by the Government to ‘prevent suicide’ it is ironic the committee report was released on the same day as NHS England finance chief Paul Baumann said £800m held in reserve, was to be available from CCGs for mental health services, community health services, primary care and other things, will now” be used to offset hospital overspends” This is a clear demonstration of the lack of commitment the Government actually has to its ‘Suicide prevention programme’ and to the people living, and dying with and due to, poor Mental Health.