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Suicide Prevention

Volume 538: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2012

The Department of Health funds the national confidential inquiry into suicide and homicide by people with mental illness. The Department is funding an investigation of self-harm, and the National Institute for Health Research is funding a range of further research relevant to suicide prevention.

The Minister will be aware that core funding for research into the causes, effects and geographical spread of suicide and its frequent precursor, self-harm, is essential. More than 200,000 people present at accident and emergency with self-harm. I am very concerned to hear that the ongoing funding for the multi-centre study of self-harm is potentially at risk. Will he agree to meet me and the research project leads to discuss this and ensure that that research continues?

The hon. Lady chairs the all-party group on suicide and self-harm prevention. She does a lot of important work in this House in that regard, and I would be only too happy to talk to her about research priorities in this area. The Government are examining the research priorities to support the new strategy, which we plan to publish in the near future.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), who has done fantastic work on the prevention of suicide. It is not the Department of Health’s job to regulate the worldwide web, but what work has the Department done on examining the link between the watching of violent websites—and, indeed, looking at websites that promote or facilitate suicide—and the actual carrying out of suicide?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point, which has been raised by a number of charities, including Papyrus, during the consultation on the draft strategy. It is important to stress that the internet industry has been willing to engage in positive initiatives, not the least of which is Facebook and Google’s work with the Samaritans to make sure that whenever anyone types in “suicide” a link to the Samaritans always appears first. However, more needs to be done and we need the industry to tackle those darker sides of the internet to make sure that they do not prey on vulnerable people and do not peddle suicide.

Given the crucial role that the chief coroner was to have had in monitoring and advising the Department of Health on the incidence of suicide across the nation, will the Minister liaise with the Lord Chancellor to ensure that a chief coroner is appointed speedily and that powers are put in place quickly to make sure that this work can be done?