A minister for suicide prevention has been appointed in England by the prime minister as the government hosts the first ever global mental health summit.
Theresa May said the appointment of Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price to the new role will help tackle the stigma surrounding suicide.
While suicide rates are falling, 4,500 people take their own lives every year.
The appointment comes as ministers and officials from more than 50 countries assemble in London for the summit.
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Wednesday’s meeting – hosted by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – coincides with World Mental Health Day.
Ms May said: “We can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence and prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives.”
Alongside the announcement, the prime minister pledged £1.8m to the Samaritans so the charity can continue providing its free helpline for the next four years.
Manchester University’s Prof Louis Appleby, one of the country’s leading experts on suicide, said it was an “important” move to have a minister for suicide prevention.
He said suicide was not just a health issue, but cut across numerous government departments.
He said having a minister would help “open doors” and make it easier to have conversations about suicide and the role of everything from benefits to online gambling.
But others criticised the government’s record on mental health.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, said: “While we applaud the intention, it is striking that the UK should be hosting such a summit when we hear daily about people left untreated due to a lack of nurses and doctors.
“This failure of psychiatric services has huge social and economic implications.
“Two years ago, Theresa May announced a comprehensive plan to tackle the ‘hidden injustice’ of mental illness in our country, yet in recent weeks there have been disturbing reports that people are being detained in police cells for up to six days for the lack of NHS beds, children referred to specialist services being turned away and lives being damaged due to long waits to get treatment.
“The prime minister must examine our own mental health system before addressing other countries.”