By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – Stepping up its anti-suicide efforts, Britain has appointed a new minister to “challenge the stigma” over mental health problems, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday.
Holding its first-ever summit on mental health today to mark World Mental Health Day, the British government announced the appointment of Jackie Doyle-Price as ministerial lead for suicide prevention.
Responding to the new post, Hancock said the UK is “already making progress when it comes to suicide prevention” as the “suicide rate is at its lowest for seven years”, but “we need to do more to challenge the stigma that people with mental ill-health face and make sure they feel they can reach out for help.”
“Every suicide is a preventable death and we are determined to do everything we can to tackle the tragedy of suicide,” he added.
Doyle-Price, the newly appointed minister for mental health, inequalities and – now – suicide prevention, said she understands “how tragic, devastating and long-lasting the effect of suicide can be on families and communities.”
“In my time as health minister I have met many people who have been bereaved by suicide, and their stories of pain and loss will stay with me for a long time,” she said.
“It’s these people who need to be at the heart of what we do and I welcome this opportunity to work closely with them, as well as experts, to oversee a cross-government suicide prevention plan, making sure their views are always heard.”
Prime Minister Theresa May also pledged £1.8 million ($2.37 million) to the Samaritans – a registered charity to prevent suicides – so they can continue offering free helpline for the next four years.
Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said they “welcome the government’s announcement of funding towards Samaritans’ helpline, which will meet around 10 percent of the total helpline costs for the next four years and help us to continue to provide our service free of charge.”
“Samaritans’ 20,000 volunteers are available at any time for anyone who is struggling to cope,” she said, adding that they “respond to more than 5 million requests for help a year.”
In 2017, there were 5,821 suicides registered in the U.K., an age-standardized rate of 10.1 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Office for National Statistics.