Following on from World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September 2012, it has been announced that the Government is launching a new strategy to tackle suicide rates and promising to invest £1.5 million into research to help better understand how to prevent vulnerable people from taking their own lives.

Recent statistics have shown that it is now middle aged men, those 35 to 45 years old, who are the group most at risk of committing suicide in England.

The recession, unemployment and financial concerns are key factors which are being attributed to this group being more likely to take their own lives. A new study released in line with the strategy states that ‘previously, periods of high unemployment or severe economic problems have had an adverse effect on the mental health of the population and have been associated with higher rates of suicide’.

Others who are at high risk include those who have a history of mental health illness or self-harm, and there is still concern that the stigma surrounding these conditions prevents people from seeking proper help.

The Government last published a suicide prevention strategy 10 years ago, and whilst there was a decrease in those committing suicide, rates have recently risen again; in England someone takes their own life approximately every two hours.

The new Government initiative identifies a number of issues for consideration, including a better understanding of both the cause and possible prevention of suicide, increased support for those groups at risk, reducing the opportunity for suicide (for example in mental health facilities and the regulation of the prescription of potentially lethal drugs) and providing more help to those whose are left bereaved by suicide.

Norman Lamb, Care Services Minister, has explained that the Government ‘wants to reduce suicides by better supporting those most at risk and providing information for those affected by a loved one’s suicide’.

Charities have come forward in support of the strategy, claiming the way to reduce the chances of suicide is better support, and the Samaritans are launching a Call to Action Initiative, which will encourage organisations across England to take action to help reduce suicide. Further backing is also being given to Time to Change, a national campaign aimed at reducing the stigma around mental health.

Whilst the implementation of the strategy can only be seen a positive step, it is now essential that there is a real commitment and investment to ensure that these policies and practices are put in place and enforced. It will only be then that those who are vulnerable will have somewhere to turn and hopefully feel that they are getting the support they need.