The U.K just appointed a Minister for Suicide Prevention.
Britain is serious about mental health, it seems.
Months after appointing Tracy Crouch as the Minister for Loneliness, a position that seeks to address loneliness as a public health concern, costing U.K. employers up to $3.5 billion dollars annually; Prime Minister Theresa May announced Wednesday that Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price will also take on the task of suicide prevention, and to dispel stigma around mental health issues as the Minister for Suicide Prevention.
“We can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence,” Mrs. May said at a Downing Street reception in commemoration of World Mental Health Day. “We can prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives. And we can give the mental well-being of our children the priority it so profoundly deserves.”
According to The New York Times, suicide rates in England have dropped in recent years, but an average of 4, 500 people take their own lives each year, and is considered as the leading cause of death for men under the age of 45.
“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,” Ms. Doyle-Price said in a statement shortly after her appointment.
“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,” she said.
The NYT report added that Health Secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged that mental health services had been “short of resources” as he began an initiative to place mental health on equal importance with physical health.
“The truth is that, for an awfully long time, mental health has simply not had the same level of support — both in terms of resources, but also in terms of how we as a society talk about it — compared to physical health, and we want to change that,” Hancock said in an interview with the BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
”There is a long road to travel to get there,” he added. “This is not something you solve overnight.”
The government hopes that by appointing a minister who will specifically look into the causes and how to prevent suicide, they can ensure that mental health is given priority funding in the National Health Service, added Hancock in the interview.
Schools will also specifically be targeted as a way to give children and youth access to mental health services
The prime minister also announced the Samaritan’s Help Line, a free and confidential 24-hour phone line that will aim to help those battling suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues.
Advocates and experts on mental health commended the move, but also urged ministers to use their data to create a road map that ensures that funding and future initiatives will meet the demands of citizens.