A Wrexham lawyer claims the Government needs to do a great deal more than just appoint a minister for suicide prevention and provide funding for extra support teams, as was announced yesterday.
The Government made the timely announcement on World Mental Health Day that Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price has been appointed to the new role of minister for suicide prevention, but lawyer Elzbeth Kenny says it also needs to address failings in the basic infrastructure of mental health care.
“The government may have appointed a new minister for suicide prevention, pledged £1.8m to the Samaritans to provide a helpline and announced plans to provide new support teams, but what is it doing, for example, about providing training for GPs?” says Elzbeth Kenny, a solicitor with GHP Legal which acts for mental health patients across North and Mid-Wales, Shropshire and the North West of England.
“Suicide numbers may be falling but mental health issues in general are growing. Often the GP is a patient’s first port of call when they cannot cope with stress at work or in the home. Yet in some areas GPs are being told in the first instance to refer patients to ‘approved’ self-help websites.
“To ask a patient to look up their mental health symptoms online is a seriously dangerous practice, because when someone is in a fragile state of mind they will identify with everything they read and this will just add to their stress.
“And why is this happening? It is happening because there are insufficient clinical resources available for referrals. Opening more helplines will not change this. We need more clinical resources, both in terms of consultation and treatment. It would be very interesting to know how many suicides have occurred following on-line ‘self-help’ referrals.”