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SUICIDE prevention needs “proper funding of front-line services,” Labour warned the government today after Theresa May announced a new minister to deal with the issue.
The PM’s appointment of Jackie Doyle-Price on World Mental Health Day was supposed to show the government was taking the problem of suicide seriously, with 4,500 people taking their lives each year and suicide the leading cause of death among men under the age of 45.
But it appeared no new money is attached to the new suicide prevention minister’s role, with a Downing Street source saying only that Ms Doyle-Price would “have access to some of the nearly £12 billion that we already spend on mental health in this country.”
Thurrock MP and junior health minister Ms Doyle-Price’s suitability for her new job was immediately called into question as it emerged she had previously joked about jumping off Beachy Head.
Addressing speculation that she might follow Clacton MP Dougas Carswell in defecting to Ukip, she told the Thurrock Gazette in 2014 that she would “sooner jump off Beachy Head.”
Around 20 people a year kill themselves by throwing themselves from the chalk cliffs at Beachy Head, East Sussex.
Regular patrols are carried out in the area in the hope of finding and dissuading people planning to jump.
A senior Labour source said: “Any comment which increases stigma or disrespect or lack of understanding for mental health issues — in particular in this case mental health issues and suicide — is obviously completely inappropriate.
“These kinds of comments are unacceptable.”
In a further humiliation to the PM's new bid to tackle suicide, the Commons heard that nearly half of women involved in work capability benefits tests have tried to take their own life.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford demanded the assessments, used to decide whether people are eligible to claim support for ill health, be scrapped to mark World Mental Health Day.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Blackford said: “Nearly one in two women taking part in the government’s work capability assessments say they have attempted suicide after or during the process.
“A series of secret internal enquiries into these revealed that Conservative ministers were repeatedly warned of the policy's shortcomings.
“Will the Prime Minister commit today to ensuring her new Minister for Suicide looks at the impact of her government’s own social care policies and, at long last, scrap the appalling work capability assessment?”
Defending the assessments, Ms May claimed they “encourage” people back into work.
And trade union GMB found that one in three young workers suffers from mental ill-health because of zero-hours contracts, insecure employment, low pay and student debt.
Shopworkers’ union Usdaw also found that financial woes are affecting the mental health of 63 per cent of retail workers, with 92 per cent seeing no improvement to their money troubles in the last five years.
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