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House of Commons Hansard
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18 June 2019
Volume 662
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3. What his Department’s strategy is to reduce the level of male suicides. [911403]

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Men remain the group at the highest risk of suicide and continue to account for three quarters of all suicides. Clearly, targeting suicide in men must be the main thrust of our suicide prevention strategy. We are investing £25 million to support local suicide prevention plans in every local area, and that funding is testing different approaches and sharing best practice. We also announced £600,000 yesterday to support local authorities with exactly these processes.

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It devastates me to have to tell the House that St Helens has the highest rate of suicide in the country, and three quarters of those who take their own lives are men. We know that working class men in deprived areas are 10 times more at risk than those in the most affluent areas, so will the Minister recognise class and community, and poverty and place, as key factors in male suicide and its causes? Will she come to St Helens to see and support the vital work that is being done to prevent the tragic crisis of suicide that is affecting more families in my community?

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I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman says, and I would be delighted to go to St Helens, not least because the more we can do to share good practice around combating male suicide, the more we can prevent it. Everybody in this space wants to do more to prevent suicide, and location is important, too, which is why a big part of my plan is to ensure that we are putting in good measures in the places that attract more suicides.

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A few weeks ago, I held a debate in this Chamber on the subject of suicide in the farming community. What are my hon. Friend’s plans to improve the mental health of males under 40 in rural areas?

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I am delighted that my hon. Friend is highlighting the farming community. He is right that the incidence of suicide is particularly high in that community, not least because those people work in remote areas, have less engagement with others and have access to the means. We must ensure that all vulnerable men feel that they can reach out to people who can support them. I encourage everybody to get the message out that if we see people who look vulnerable or struggling, we should be comfortable about reaching out to them. We have heard amazing stories of when just the simplest intervention, such as, “Are you all right, my friend?” can make the difference between life and death.

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Sharing information saves lives when it comes to suicide prevention, but families are too often unnecessarily excluded because clinicians may be unaware of or do not follow the consensus statement guidance on seeking consent and sharing information in the patient’s best interests. I thank the Minister for meeting me and the National Suicide Prevention Alliance recently. She will know that the Matthew Elvidge Trust has highlighted the importance of how consent is sought, and it has suggested the following wording:

“In our experience, it is always much better to involve a family member, friend or colleague whom you trust in your treatment and recovery... This will result in you recovering much quicker. Would you like us to make contact with someone and would you like us to do this with you now?”

The Minister will agree that there is a huge difference between that and just asking someone whether their mum can be phoned. Will the Minister set out how she will raise awareness of the consensus statement?

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her continued interest in this matter. She will recognise the cultural challenge of encouraging all practitioners in the NHS to embrace the change, because we quite rightly have a culture in which discretion is paramount. Practices are in place to encourage information sharing, and I highlight our support for the Zero Suicide Alliance—£2 million was provided last October—and central to its work will be spreading understanding of the consensus statement throughout the NHS.