(Title Image: Esquire)
Yesterday, the Senedd discussed a Health Committee report into suicide prevention – a summary of which can be read here.
Committee Chair, Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) opened with sobering statistics: 360 suicides in Wales during 2017 and 278 of those were men – up from 2016. According to Samaritans, each suicide costs £1.67million to deal with from start to finish. There was one key message from the inquiry:
“Suicide is everybody’s business; that’s the key message we’ve heard throughout this inquiry. That’s the message we all need to remember and share. Suicide can affect anybody, there isn’t a community in Wales where people haven’t been touched by suicide, and talking about suicide does not make it more likely to happen.”
– Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Dai Lloyd
He was pleased the Welsh Government accepted the report’s recommendations, but stigmas about mental health remain and many of those at risk of suicide – especially middle-aged men – were often difficult to reach, with a particularly high suicide rate amongst farmers.
Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West) warned that statistics were heading in the wrong direction and, echoing what Dai said, described his “alarm” at evidence given to a cross-party group on faith about suicide in the farming industry.
Lynne Neagle AM (Lab, Torfaen) believed the report’s findings overlapped with her committee’s report on young people’s mental health; suicide was the leading cause of death amongst 15-19-year-olds. She was concerned the Welsh Government hasn’t committed to making mental health guidance in schools statutory.
Dawn Bowden AM (Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney) later added that the police often don’t do enough to support grieving families – even when they want to – as no crime has been committed.
“Man up” needs to be removed from our vocabulary
“Society still does not encourage men and boys to be open about their vulnerabilities – weakness is still frowned on. Most of us are conscious of the negative effects that sexism and patriarchal norms have on the lives of women and girls. We need to remember that these patriarchal norms are sometimes fatal to men and boys too….Let’s all commit today never again to say to a little boy, ‘Big boys don’t cry.’ “
– Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales)
Her comments were echoed by Caroline Jones AM (Ind, South Wales West), who said “Man up” was a toxic phrase that should be removed from our collective vocabulary. UKIP’s Neil Hamilton lamented that in the age of instant global communication people were as lonely as ever.
“I hear too often of vulnerable people who are being turned away when they do seek out services – hearing, perhaps, that their mental health condition is not considered sufficiently serious. There was a recent case in Anglesey over Christmas: a young boy had completed a suicide, although he went to hospital seeking help. Unfortunately, there was no bed available for him. He was considered not to need support and he decided what he needed to do in order to deal with his pain.”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn)
Neil McEvoy AM (Ind, South Wales Central) said parental alienation can often drive fathers to suicide, with children “used as weapons”. Men are criticised for not engaging, but how can they engage when there’s a feeling that the family courts will use evidence of emotional strain against you?
“Edrych ar ôl ein gilydd”
If there’s one AM who, sadly, knows more than most about the devastation caused by suicide it’s Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside). His contribution deserves to be seen and heard in full and if there’s anything on Senedd Home you’re going to watch, read or share today, make sure it’s this:
Additional £500,000 a year
Replying to the debate, Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), was pleased the Welsh Government agreed or agreed in principle to all of the report’s recommendations.
An additional £500,000 a year will go towards suicide prevention services and the Welsh NHS continues to spend more on mental health than any other part of the health service. Mental health spending is ring-fenced and an extra £20million was made available in this financial year.
A new website was launched on 30th January as a one-stop shop for advice and support for employers, children, parents, the recently bereaved and those who work in health and care. The next phase of the Time to Change campaign will also specifically target middle-aged men.