Addressing the Escalating Rate of Suicide

  • 6 Pages
  • Published On: 29-11-2023

Government Response/Reaction to Suicide in the Inpatient Hospital, Mental Health Hospital, Community and Prison in England, Wales and Scotland

The death by suicide of any person is tragic, and whose occurrence and increasing rate over the years has been a cause of concern among governments. Suicide significantly impacts on the victim, their families, friends, as well as the professionals who worked with them before their death such as health service providers, correction officers, among others. Given the grave consequences of suicide and the concern it raises, governments have taken measures aimed at addressing this very important matter through; prevention of suicide, offering support and help to those contemplating or at a high risk of suicide, and those who lose their loved ones through suicide.


Suicide prevention initiatives in England revolved around health policies in the years before 2012, and were undertaken through the department of health (DH). DH published various white papers: Modernizing Mental Health Service (1998); Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation (1999); National Service Framework for Mental Health (1999) (Scie-, 2021). The Saving Lives white paper sought to reduce suicides by 20% by the year 2010 (Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, 2021), while the National Service Framework for Mental Health established standards in various aspects of mental health service provision, including suicide prevention (National service framework: mental health, 2021). It sought to do this by promoting the mental health and well-being of individuals, and preventing suicide among those seeking health and social services, and those suffering from severe mental illness. DH further published the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England in 2002, which aimed to: reduce suicide risk among high risk groups; promote the wider population’s mental health/well-being; limit the availability and lethality of suicide methods; improve suicidal behavior reporting in media; enhance research on suicide and its prevention; improve target monitoring of Saving Lives target to reduce suicides (National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England, 2021).

Preventing Suicide in England: A cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives strategy was published by the Coalition Government in 2012, with the key goal of “a reduction in the suicide rate in the general population in England; and better support of those bereaved or affected by suicide”. The strategy’s action areas included: reducing the risk of suicide in high-risk groups; improving mental health in various groups; reducing access to suicidal methods; providing information and support to those affected/bereaved by suicide; supporting media deliver sensitive suicide and suicidal behavioral approaches; supporting research, data collection and monitoring (Preventing Suicide in England, 2021).

Scotland has also undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at addressing the issue, including the Choose Life Programme in 2002 (Scotland, 2021), which along with others such as the See Me programme (seemescotland.0rg, 2021), Scottish Recovery Network Scottish Recovery Network, 2021), the Breathing Space telephone and web service (, 2021) and the 2013 Suicide Prevention Strategy, significantly reduced the suicide rate. The Mental Health Strategy of 2017 created a new plan aimed at building on the progress made by the Choose Life Programme, and identified distress (for example, self-harm) as an important focus area. It also encouraged parity between mental and physical health, such that it promoted greater public sector collaboration on early prevention and intervention of suicide. The Scottish Government has set out various action plans, including setting up and funding a National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) on matters within the local governments’ jurisdiction. The NSPLG is responsible for: funding the establishment and implementation of a refreshed mental health and suicide prevention training; coordinated approach to public awareness campaigns; providing support and help to those bereaved/affected by suicide; gauging the effectiveness of different evidence-based models to share best practice and suggest the best crisis support model(s) to service providers; working with partners to develop innovations that promote suicide prevention; promoting preventive actions aimed at high-risk groups. The government also works with NSPLG to ensure that they use data, guidance and evidence to maximize impact, and to develop reviews of suicides and sharing them with each other.

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While community and hospital suicides are of key concern, it has been shown that prisoners commit suicide at a higher rate compared to the general population, with suicide being among the leading death causes in prisons. As such, various: international obligations; Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1957), Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (1990) and Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Care (1991): Victorial legislation and regulations (the Corrections Act 1986 and Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006): Policies (the Correctional Suicide Prevention Framework; Justice Health Quality Framework 2011; Justice Health Service Standards: and Standards (Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia; Correctional Management Standards for Men’s Prisons; Standards for the Management of Women Prisoners, etc) frame the correctional department’s response to suicides in prisons.

References 2021. Breathing Space is a free confidential service for people in Scotland. Open up when you're feeling down - phone 0800 83 85 87. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2021].

GOV.UK. 2021. National service framework: mental health. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2021].

GOV.UK. 2021. Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2021].

GOV.UK. 2021. Suicide prevention strategy for England. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2021].

GOV.UK. 2021. Suicide prevention: resources and guidance. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2021].

Penal Reform International. 2021. UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR). [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2021]. 2021. Modernising mental health services: safe, sound and supportive - Social Care Online. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2021]. 2021. Scottish Recovery Network. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2021].

Scotland, P., 2021. Suicide prevention overview. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2021]. 2021. See Me is Scotland's Programme to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2021].

Take a deeper dive into Addressing Public Health Issues in Northern Ireland with our additional resources.

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