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 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 2017 it has included a commitment to reduce the rate of suicides by 10% in 2020/21 nationally, as compared to 2016/17 levels.
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 transport, social security, education, defence, media, and justice policy briefs.
This briefing paper begins with a statistical overview of suicide rates throughout the UK over time, using the latest data set from the Office of National Statistics, which was published in September 2018. This shows that in United Kingdom in 2017 there were 5,821 recorded suicides. This number of deaths equates to an age-standardised suicide rate of 10.1 deaths per 100,000 population, which is one of the lowest rates observed since the suicide data series began in 1981.
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 Third Progress report, published in January 2017. 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.
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 then proceeds to a consideration 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 are 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; Elizabeth Parkin; Rachael Harker; Carl Baker; David Foster; Steven Kennedy; Douglas Pyper; Louise Butcher; John Woodhouse; Jennifer Brown; Louisa Brooke-Holland; Catherine Fairbairn
Topics: Armed forces, Benefits policy, Civil law, Criminal law, Employment, Employment schemes, Further education, Health services, Higher education, Local government, Media, Prisons, Railways, Schools, Sickness, disability and carers' benefits, Students, Working age benefits