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The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is today calling on all NHS trusts to commit to preventing all suicides among people in their care, as he hosts a conference that brings together clinicians, policy makers and campaign groups to discuss the future of mental health services in England.
The Government announcement has been inspired by projects around the country such as Stop Suicide, a government-funded programme run by Mind in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Fenland Mind and Life Craft.
Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer said:
“We lose 4,700 people to suicide in England each year, and around a third are people who have had recent contact with mental health services. Every suicide is a tragedy. Worryingly, suicide rates have been creeping up over that last few years after a period of decline.
“No one who is in touch with services, asking for help, should reach the point of taking their own life. It is essential that we have services that can respond when people reach out, from early treatment to help people manage their mental health problems as soon as possible, to crisis care services that can step in when someone becomes acutely unwell.
“Historical underfunding for mental health, compounded by cuts over the last few years, mean that services are struggling to cope with demand. If the Government is serious about reducing the suicide rate they have got to start investing properly in mental health services and giving mental health the priority it deserves.
“We must also remember that suicide isn’t just about mental health services. A person’s wellbeing and ability to cope is affected by every area of life. We know that welfare reform and unemployment have really taken their toll on people’s mental health and the stigma that continues to surround mental illness prevents many from speaking out and seeking help. We need an approach to suicide reduction that tackles these and other social factors as much as the health service.”
On the same day, the Labour leader Ed Miliband has outlined his party’s approach to mental health, calling for more of a focus on prevention and public health initiatives, and particular emphasis on improving services for children and young people.
Paul Farmer said:
“It's great to see mental health on the agenda in the run up to the general election. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem this year so it’s something that affects almost all voters one way or another. Whoever forms our next government will need to hit the ground running on mental health - we hope to hear all parties committing to improving mental health services and tackling the many social and economic issues that affect all our mental wellbeing."
The Guardian newspaper has explored both stories in more detail in a piece on their website .