This House of Commons Library briefing paper examines suicide prevention policies and strategies throughout the UK. It outlines national and local approaches to prevention policy in England, as well as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It does so by considering the strategies of the UK Government, as well as the devolved administrations, from various policy perspectives.Jump to full report >>
Suicide prevention policy in the UK has, in recent decades, developed and expanded considerably as concerns around suicide rates have intensified. In England it has, since September 2012, taken the form of an integrated cross-Government strategy – Preventing Suicide in England: a cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives – whose aim, principally, is to prevent people from taking their own lives. Since 2016 it has included a commitment to reduce the rate of suicides in England by 10% by 2020/21, which the Government will measure against the rate of registered suicides in 2015.
This builds on the previous Government strategy, which was led by the Department of Health and was established by the Labour Government in 2002. More than this earlier initiative, however, the current iteration of the Strategy operates deliberately and explicitly at a cross-Government level which involves a variety of different, albeit overlapping, policy areas. These include health, as well as the transport, social security, education, defence, media, and justice policy briefs.
Section one of this briefing paper provides a statistical overview of suicide rates throughout the UK over time, using the latest data published by the Office of National Statistics in September 2019. This shows that in 2018 there were 6,507 recorded suicides in the United Kingdom. This number of deaths equates to an age-standardised suicide rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 population, which is a significant increase on previous years and the highest rate recorded since 2002. It is also, nevertheless, lower than rates recorded in the 1980s and 1990s.
Section two provides an overview of suicide prevention policies and strategies in the UK, as well as their various updates; the latest of which from the UK Government is the Fourth Progress Report and Workplan for its Suicide Prevention Strategy for England, both published in January 2019.
Section three considers national and local oversight of suicide prevention measures, including the two reports produced by the House of Commons Health Select Committee as a result of its Suicide Prevention Inquiry which took place during 2016-2017.
Since October 2018, there has been a designated Minister for Suicide Prevention in the Department of Health and Social Care who is responsible for leading “a national effort on suicide prevention”.
Given the cross-Government nature of the UK Government’s Strategy, which is also, to varying degrees, a feature of strategies developed by the devolved administrations, this briefing paper considers of each of the policy areas upon which suicide prevention plans touch individually, taking each in turn. These are:
While this paper focuses heavily on policies relating to England – which fall under the jurisdiction of the UK Government – it also considers suicide prevention strategies developed and implemented by the governments of Scotland and Wales, as well as the Northern Ireland Executive. Policies from each strategy, as well as those pertaining to separate institutions or systems in the constituent nations of the UK, are considered in the sections covering the policy areas mentioned above when they relate to devolved matters.
The current or latest iterations of each suicide prevention plan from the devolved administrations are:
Commons Briefing papers CBP-8221
Authors: Andrew Mackley; Carl Baker; Catherine Fairbairn; Tom Powell; David Foster; Daniel Ferguson; Steven Kennedy; John Woodhouse; Louisa Brooke-Holland; Andrew Haylen; Jacqueline Beard
Topics: Armed forces, Benefits policy, Civil law, Criminal law, Employment, Employment schemes, Further education, Health services, Higher education, Local government, Media, Mental health, Prisons, Railways, Schools, Sickness, disability and carers' benefits, Students, Working age benefits