Luna Foundation

Anna Wardley’s response to the UK Government’s new Suicide Prevention Strategy for England

I’ve just read the government’s new Suicide Prevention Strategy for England and I’m heartened to see that the strategy does view children and young people as a priority group, referencing the increased suicide rate in this group in recent years, and also acknowledgement that bereavement, including by suicide, forms a risk factor for young people, with a quarter of those under 20 taking their own life having had this experience.

It’s also good to see that pregnant women and new mums being identified as a priority group and the recognition that the death of a parent by suicide can have a devastating and lasting effect on a child, especially in this early stage of development. Research published last year in the Lancet evidenced this and showed that children who experience parental suicide when they were under 5 faced the highest suicide risk themselves compared to those experiencing suicide bereavement later in childhood. That’s why we’ve developed and piloted training for early years practitioners to address the gap in provision of support for this important group.

The strategy outlines an ambition to improve suicide bereavement support, but there is no reference to ensuring that specialist support is available for children and young people, an area where there is all too often a gap.

We welcome the expansion of mental health support teams in schools and colleges, but it’s vital that these teams receive suicide bereavement training and that every education setting has a suicide bereavement policy so that they are prepared to support children after suicide loss so that they don’t become our suicide statistics in the future. We have developed a policy template and provide training for those working with children and young people to ensure those gaps are addressed.

Another stated priority over the next five years is improving data and evidence and we continue to call on the government to count the number of children who lose a parent to suicide, that’s not currently happening on a nationwide level, and it’s a huge barrier to those children getting the support they need. It really it time that they are counted.

Suicide prevention really is everyone’s business and it’s great to see that today’s publication highlights the close correlation between suicide bereavement support and suicide prevention, and the need to focus our attention on children and young people’s mental health.

However, we need to join the dots to ensure that support for children and young people after suicide is at the heart of our response to break the chain of poor mental health and suicide risk they currently face, something we are dedicated to here at Luna.

Listen to Anna’s response here;