Intended for healthcare professionals


Suicide prevention in England

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 13 August 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5102
  1. Alexandra Pitman, associate professor in psychiatry
  1. UCL Division of Psychiatry, London, UK
  1. a.pitman{at}

Evidence suggests where ministerial preventive efforts might be directed

In the July 2019 cabinet reshuffle prompted by a new Conservative prime minister, Nadine Dorries was appointed as minister for mental health. In the process, ministerial responsibilities for inequalities and suicide prevention held by her predecessor, Jackie Doyle-Price, seemed to have been dropped. Repeated requests for clarification by suicide researchers to the Department of Health and Social Care over the following two weeks ( were met with silence. Suicide prevention organisations expressed disappointment (, highlighting their investments in sharing best practice with Doyle-Price, appointed into this new post in October 2018.

As the suicide prevention minister was in office for only nine months, it is not realistic to review what she achieved in tackling a public health problem that killed 5821 people in the UK in 2017.1 It is worth considering, however, the potential contribution to suicide reductions of this role, which follows other recent central initiatives such as the 2016 Five Year Forward View for Mental Health,2 the 2018 NICE guidance on preventing suicide in community and custodial settings,3 the 2018 zero suicide ambition for mental health settings,4 the 2019 NHS Long …

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