Monday, 2 November
UPDATED ACTION PLAN TO REDUCE SUICIDE IN WALES
Much progress made since draft plan announced last year
Fresh plans to reduce suicide and self-harm will be launched today [Monday,
2 November 2009] by the Welsh Assembly Government following extensive
consultation on a draft action plan published last year.
The national action plan, ‘Talk to Me’, aims to raise awareness of suicide and
self-harm and encourage people to talk more about their problems to remove
the stigma that is associated with emotional and mental health problems.
Many of the draft recommendations have already been rolled out:
• Nearly 2,000 frontline staff have been trained in Mental Health First
Aid, a programme to identify and assist people displaying signs of
mental health problems.
• 900 people have received Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training
(ASIST), practical training for care-givers seeking to prevent the
immediate risk of suicide.
• An all-Wales, telephone and text service to support people
experiencing mental health problems has been extended to be
available 24 hours a day. The bilingual Community Advice and
Listening Line (C.A.L.L.) took 20,277 calls in 12 months up to October
2009, a 50 per cent increase on the previous year. The action plan
encourages people to discuss their problems and concerns, as the
name ‘Talk to Me’ suggests.
• In October 2009, the Samaritans appointed an Assembly Government-
funded national coordinator for Wales, to increase awareness of
Samaritans services across Wales and support the delivery of suicide
reduction programmes in the country.
Following the consultation on the draft plan, a bite-sized course on
recognising signs of mental distress is also being developed for health
professionals, to be rolled out in April 2010.
The responses to the consultation indicated that many professionals felt they
had some of the necessary skills and would find it difficult to take too much
time out of their daily schedules to complete a longer course. The programme,
‘Connecting with People,’ has been developed to reduce the stigma
associated with self harm and increase understanding of self harm and
The programme has been awarded new funding totalling £85,000 from the
Welsh Assembly Government to further develop it to support delivery of the
The Welsh Assembly Government has also provided more than £400,000 a
year for the 24-hour helpline and £100,000 a year for the Samaritans
coordinator, while £1.7 million for the training programmes comes from Welsh
Assembly Government and lottery funding.
Health Minister Edwina Hart said:
“It will take time to see significant reductions in rates of suicide and self-harm
in Wales but by raising awareness of the support available and increasing
training, we hope to reach those who may be most vulnerable to suicide and
to encourage them to talk about their problems.
“With one in four of us likely to experience some kind of mental health
problem during our lives, it is important that there is a better understanding
and empathy with those affected to make it easier for them to seek help.
“Every suicide is a tragedy where a life and family member is lost, with a
lasting effect on those left behind. We hope that this plan will make people
feel more able to talk about their problems and ask for help, and that help will
be more readily available.”
Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell said:
“The action plan aims to promote improved mental health and well being by
encouraging people to talk more about their personal difficulties and get help
quickly when they need it.
“Talking about these issues does not create or increase risk, it reduces it. If
people understand the issues they will be better placed to provide help or
know where to find support.
”Calls to the 24-hour helpline have increased since last year, which is a
promising sign that people are more aware of the service and more prepared
to talk about their problems and concerns.”
Welcoming the plan, Simon Hatch, Samaritans director for Wales, said:
“We welcome the launch of ‘Talk to me’, which aims to reduce suicide by
encouraging people to talk more about their personal difficulties. This focus
aligns itself with the very core of Samaritans work and our belief that
giving people the opportunity to talk can alleviate feelings of despair and
reduce suicidal feelings.
“As part of my new role, I look forward to working closely with the Welsh
Assembly Government over the coming years to ensure that anyone
experiencing emotional distress in Wales has access to the 24/7 support they
For more information contact the Welsh Assembly Government press
office on 029 2082 1823
‘Talk to Me’ A National Action Plan to Reduce Suicide and Self-Harm in Wales
2009 – 2014, available at: www.wales.gov.uk/improvehealth
Two versions of the document have been produced for consultation – an easy
read version and a full-length version.
Details on initiatives from the plan:
Mental Health First Aid – www.mhfa-wales.org.uk
A mental health training programme for frontline workers such as teachers,
JobcentrePlus staff, the police and prison service, and healthcare workers
(not just in the mental health environment). These groups are likely to often
deal with people with mental distress, but might lack the skills to support
them. Funded by the Welsh Assembly and delivered by MIND Cymru, the
programme offers training so that staff can identify someone experiencing
mental health problems, deal with a crisis situation and signpost them towards
Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) –
Also funded by the Assembly Government/Big Lottery and run by Mind Cymru
is a specialist internationally-recognised training programme already well
established in Canada, USA, Australia, Norway, Scotland and Northern
Ireland. ASIST provides practical training for caregivers seeking to prevent
the immediate risk of suicide. Participants include people concerned about
family and friends, emergency service workers, counsellors, teachers and
ministers, mental health practitioners and workers in health, welfare and
justice. The programme initially ran as a pilot project but is now being rolled
out across Wales under the action plan.
CALL (Community Advice and Listening Line) – www.callhelpline.org.uk
a confidential listening and support service for people experiencing mental
health problems and their friends or relatives. It provides free support on
0800 132 737 or by texting ‘help’ to 81066. Under the action plan, it has
become a round-the-clock service.