PUBLIC SECTOR: DoH comms push targets UK suicide rates

The Department of Health is to put in place a fresh PR strategy to reduce the UK's suicide rate.

Proposals under consideration include encouraging the media to increase reporting of suicide, to raise awareness of the problem and highlight its devastating affect on family and friends.

The strategy is also expected to include a commitment to improving the promotion of mental health services, advice to the public on improving mental well-being and backing for research into suicide prevention.

The proposals have been outlined in a consultation paper, which has gone out to NHS, social services and prison service staff as well as charities, such as the Samaritans, all of whom have an interest in preventing suicide.

A target group for any future publicity is likely to be young men.

Latest government research shows that suicide is the most common cause of death in men under 35 years of age.

The DoH also hopes to produce a toolkit to help those who deal with the issue at a local level, such as social services and health trusts, to develop their own strategies.

Figures show that 5,000 people commit suicide in the UK each year. In a white paper 'Saving Lives: Our healthier Nation', released last year, the Government stated its aim of reducing this figure by a fifth by 2010.

The consultation period will end on 26 July. A final national suicide prevention strategy is set for publication in September.

The strategy is being co-ordinated by Professor Lous Appleby, the Government's national director for mental health

In launching the consultation process, health minister Jacqui Smith said: 'There is not one easy answer to preventing suicide but the consultation sets out a range of co-ordinated activities to reduce and prevent suicide.'

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