Health Secretary Sajid Javid has spoken of his “deeply personal” mission to prevent suicides, four years after his brother’s death.
Mr Javid’s brother, Tariq, took his own life in a luxury hotel in Horsham, West Sussex, in July 2018.
Speaking at the London headquarters of the suicide prevention charity Papyrus on Friday, the Cabinet minister set out action to prevent suicides and urged men to talk about their mental health.
He said several programmes of work are already under way, including a refreshed suicide prevention plan, better services for bereaved families, and better use of technology to understand the causes of suicide.
“We must treat suicides with the same urgency that we treat any other major killer,” he said.
“I’m determined to make a difference on this issue, and one of the ways we’ll do this is by publishing a new 10-year suicide prevention plan.
“This is something that is deeply personal to me – there are too many families that are left incomplete, and too much potential has gone unfulfilled.”
Mr Javid said work is continuing to engage communities at greatest risk, including those living in the most socio-economic deprived areas.
Bereavement services will also be encouraged to proactively contact immediate family members of those who have taken their own life within days of a referral.
A national suspected suicide surveillance system will also be rolled out early next year to look for patterns that put people at risk of suicide, including examining the impact of social media.
Mr Javid said: “The Online Safety Bill gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle this issue.
“I will also work jointly across government to look at both upcoming and current legislation to make sure it meets the rapidly evolving challenges that we face, because when it comes to the encouragement of suicide we are currently relying on legislation that was primarily created long before the digital age.”
The new long-term plan for suicide prevention is seeking views from the public but only 19% of respondents so far have been male, according to the Department of Health.
The Government’s aim is that, by 2023/24, anyone in the country can dial NHS 111 to reach their local NHS mental health team and access round-the-clock support.
Mr Javid said in his speech: “I want to hear views from far and wide about how to shape this work, and the roundtable that I chaired here earlier this morning was so illuminating.
“I heard heart-breaking tales of love and loss, but also inspirational stories of the work being done to divert people from this painful path, including of course here at Papyrus.
“I am determined to make a difference on this issue.”
In 2018, West Sussex senior coroner Penelope Schofield ruled that Tariq Javid had taken his own life.
An inquest heard that he had left two letters to his partner, telling her to “carry on and enjoy life”, before he booked a room at the South Lodge Hotel in Horsham.
Jacqui Morrissey, assistant director of research and influencing at the Samaritans, said: “These are very encouraging words from the Secretary of State and we look forward to seeing them turned into action.
“As someone who has been personally touched by suicide, Sajid Javid knows better than most that suicide prevention is everyone’s business and, with so many complex factors that can lead to someone taking their own life, having MPs, civil servants and frontline government workers being trained in suicide prevention would be a big step forward.
“Samaritans has campaigned hard for better data to help make suicide prevention approaches more effective and so we are particularly pleased to see the commitment to a national suicide surveillance system being rolled out early next year.”
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