Following the release of the midpoint review of Talk to Me 2, the suicide and self harm prevention strategy for Wales 2015-20, Samaritans Cymru have welcomed the recommendations to Welsh Government. The review, which was produced for Welsh Government by Public Health Wales and Swansea University, reports on the progress of the strategy along with recommendations on the way forward for suicide and self harm prevention in Wales.
The review identifies that there are still between 300 and 350 suicides in Wales each year, with a general upward trend in male suicide between 2005 and 2016. The review identifies that there has been promising progress in developing local suicide prevention plans; a requirement that all areas work to a plan which takes local suicide rates and factors into account and develops relevant partnerships and initiatives to address it. However, the review also identifies a number of recommendations which need to be taken forward in to continue making progress.
The recommendations focus on immediate and longer-term objectives, such as developing a Wales-wide postvention pathway which would provide support to people who have experienced a suicide in their network or family. Whilst Samaritans Cymru welcome all the recommendations set out in the review, they are particularly encouraged to see the longer-term objective of ensuring that the impact of socio-economic inequalities on suicide and self harm should be acknowledged and addressed across strategies and initiatives.
Samaritans Cymru have recently launched a report which highlights the devastating link between poverty and suicide. The report, ‘Socioeconomic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour – Finding a way forward for Wales’, sets out a number of recommendations to tackle this link in Wales, including a call to Welsh Government to set out a Wales poverty strategy.
Samaritans research has found that suicide rates are two to three times higher in the most deprived neighbourhoods compared to the most affluent. The research also shows that admissions to hospital following self-harm are two times higher in the most deprived neighbourhoods compared to the most affluent and that multiple and large employer closures resulting in unemployment can increase stress in a local community, break down social connections and increase feelings of hopelessness and depression, all of which are recognised risk factors for suicidal behaviour.
Sarah Stone, Executive Director for Samaritans in Wales, said: “We welcome this mid-point review of Talk to Me 2 and are pleased to see the progress made in developing local suicide prevention plans. We are particularly pleased to see a strong focus on the need to acknowledge the impact of socioeconomic disadvantage on suicide and self harm in Wales.
“Living in a deprived area and experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage can increase the risk of suicide. However, suicide is not inevitable and there are actions we can take. Implementing this recommendation across strategies and initiatives could certainly help to to tackle the relationship between suicide and poverty in Wales.”
Professor Ann John, Chair of the National Advisory Group to Welsh Government on Suicide and Self Harm and Co-author of the review, said: “The review of implementation of the Wales suicide prevention strategy showed that Wales has made considerable progress over the last five years – but there is still much to do. Suicide is not inevitable, it’s preventable. All areas in Wales now have or are developing local plans. Politicians, employers, health, educators, front line services and third sector organisations, such as Samaritans, all have a role in identifying and supporting those at risk.
“There are a range of recommendations in the review to make this happen from finding new ways of working, to improve access to help for men, to supporting those bereaved through suicide. No single organisation can reduce suicide and self-harm by themselves, it will require a dedicated long-term focus, investment and a commitment to continue to work together.”